Vitamin D Deficiency at Birth Raises Risk of High Blood Pressure in Children

Jennifer Nessel, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Monday, July 1st, 2019
Vitamin D deficiency from birth to early childhood is associated with an increased risk of elevated blood pressure in later childhood and adolescence, according to new research.  
High blood pressure is a leading, preventable cause of cardiovascular disease worldwide, and, along with an increase in obesity among children, has been on the rise in recent years, especially in African American children.
In the study, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension, investigators followed 775 children from birth to age 18 at the Boston Medical Center, most of whom lived in a low-income, urban area and 68% of whom were African American. Low vitamin D levels were defined as less than 11 ng/ml (nanograms per millimeter) in cord blood at birth and less than 25 ng/ml in a child’s blood during early childhood.
The investigators found that children born with low levels of vitamin D had an approximately 60% higher risk of elevated systolic blood pressure between ages 6 and 18. Furthermore, children who had persistently low levels of vitamin D through early childhood had double the risk of elevated systolic blood pressure, the pressure exerted against the artery walls, between ages 3 and 18.
“Currently, there are no recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics to screen all pregnant women and young children for vitamin D levels. 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,” said Guoying Wang, MD, PhD, the study’s lead author.
Dr. Wang added that what constitutes as optimal circulating vitamin D levels during pregnancy and early childhood remains an active research question, and that their study results need to be replicated in other large populations.
  1. Low Vitamin D at Birth Raises Risk of Higher Blood Pressure in Kids [news release]. American Heart Association website. Published July 1, 2019. Accessed July 1, 2019.

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