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Researchers link low levels of vitamin D at birth with high blood pressure risks

The team suggests that mothers could help fight the risk during pregnancy

Photo (c) XiXinXing - Getty Images
In a new study conducted by the American Heart Association (AHA), researchers found that children are more likely to have high blood pressure throughout childhood and adolescence if they had low vitamin D levels at birth. 

“Currently, there are no recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics to screen all pregnant women and young children for vitamin D levels,” said researcher Dr. Guoying Wang. 

“Our findings raise the possibility that screening and treatment of vitamin D deficiency with supplementation during pregnancy and early childhood might be an effective approach to reduce high blood pressure later in life.” 

Staying heart healthy

The researchers evaluated nearly 800 children from the time they were born until they were 18 years old to see how vitamin D levels from birth affected their blood pressure into early adulthood. While the researchers explained that there is no recommended vitamin D levels that children should reach, or that pregnant women should strive for before birth, the vitamin is essential for children to develop strong bones and for the body to process calcium. 

While following the study participants over the course of their childhoods, the researchers learned that vitamin D levels at birth and beyond played a large role in children’s blood pressure. Low vitamin D levels at birth increased the risk of high blood pressure by 60 percent; children remained at higher risk of high blood pressure when those vitamin D levels stayed low throughout childhood. 

For the purposes of the study, the researchers determined that low vitamin D levels during childhood were less than 25 ng/ml (nanograms per millimeter), while low vitamin D levels during birth were less than 11 ng/ml. 

The researchers hope that these findings inspire healthcare practitioners to do more to track pregnant women’s vitamin D levels in order to prevent any blood pressure issues for children. 

Importance of vitamin D

Vitamin D is crucial for kids’ and teens’ overall development. One recent study found that children’s multivitamins are lacking in vitamin D, while another study found that low vitamin D levels during pregnancy could affect children’s motor skills and social skills development

"The importance of vitamin D sufficiency should not be underestimated. It is well-known to be good for our musculoskeletal systems, but our research shows that if levels are low in expectant mothers, it can affect the development of their children in their early years of life,” said lead author Andrea Darling.

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