Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing at Trinity College Dublin finds that vitamin D is not associated with low blood pressure in older adults

Researchers from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), at Trinity College Dublin, have shown in the largest study to-date that vitamin D is not associated with low blood pressure on standing (orthostatic hypotension) in older adults.

Orthostatic hypotension (OH) is a common chronic condition estimated to affect over 30% of older adults. It is characterized as a significant drop in blood pressure upon standing and has been associated with falls, fractures, and mortality.

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Recent research has suggested that vitamin D may have benefits for this condition. Vitamin D is essential for bone metabolism and is thought to have beneficial health effects for muscle strength and health. High levels of vitamin D deficiency exist in the older Irish population with one in eight deficient and one in four deficient, during the winter period, due to the lack of any food fortification policy in Ireland.

The TILDA researchers’ paper examined the association of vitamin D status and vitamin D supplement intake with the prevalence of OH.

Key findings:

- Older adults with vitamin D deficiency were more likely to be smokers, take high blood pressure medication and have higher levels of cardiovascular disorders compared to those with sufficient vitamin D status.

- Those with low vitamin D status were no more likely to have OH than those with normal vitamin D levels.

- Vitamin D supplement use was not associated with OH.

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Lead author of the study and Research Fellow at TILDA, Dr. Eamon Laird, said: “This is the largest ever study exploring vitamin D and orthostatic hypotension. In the older Irish population, we see no association. This is important as it is essential to know what is and is not associated with vitamin D when trying to devise and recommend intakes for the population-based on health outcomes. Recently vitamin D has been seen as the cure-all health panacea; however, it makes perfect biological sense that it cannot be associated with everything.”

Principal Investigator of TILDA, Professor Rose-Anne Kenny said: “Although we have seen no association, the usefulness of vitamin D in the management and possibly the prevention of OH cannot be dismissed. For example, those with OH are more likely to fall and also sustain fractures and the strongest evidence for the health benefits for vitamin D exists for bone health and muscle function. Thus, checking vitamin D levels and optimizing vitamin D status for bone health and muscle function is important in this high-risk group”.

Co-author of the study Dr. Triona McNicholas said “Our study found no increased risk of OH with higher concentrations of 25(OH)D or with vitamin D supplementation. Thus, the achievement of optimal vitamin D status in this patient cohort could have benefits for muscle, bone and falls without an adverse consequence for blood pressure.”

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* TILDA is funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies, the Department of Health and Irish Life plc. This paper was also supported by funding from the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (13F492) and the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI-LP3). The full paper is published here.