DETROIT A Wayne State University School of Medicine physician researcher has received a $1.9 million National Institutes of Health grant to study the role of vitamin D in halting and reducing subclinical cardiac damage in African-Americans suffering from high blood pressure.
Phillip Levy, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of emergency medicine and resident of Farmington Hills, Mich., will use the five-year grant to determine how vitamin D affects cardiac structure and function, and vascular function in blacks with hypertension. The research could identify vitamin D as a safe, effective and inexpensive therapy to stop, and even reverse, cardiac ravages caused by high blood pressure.
"This project focuses on a vulnerable demographic subgroup at high-risk for hypertension, poor blood pressure control and, consequently, adverse pressure-related cardiovascular complications," Levy said. "Vitamin D is an inexpensive therapeutic intervention, which, if shown to be efficacious, could greatly enhance the existing approach to secondary disease prevention in a widely accessible, cost-effective manner."
High blood pressure affects the black population to a greater degree than other demographics. Blacks also have more difficulty absorbing sufficient amounts of vitamin D through exposure to sunlight because of skin pigmentation. Previous studies, Levy said, suggest a relationship between the degree of skin pigmentation and thickening of the muscle tissue in the wall of the heart's main pumping chamber a condition known as left ventricular hypertrophy. Common in those with high blood pressure, left ventricular hypertrophy is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, especially heart failure. Importantly, the cardiovascular risks associated with left ventricular hypertrophy start increasing early in the process, often before the appearance of overt symptoms.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to high rates of cardiovascular diseas
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