Calcium blood pressure

Low dietary calcium may increase the risk of high blood pressure. Data from the US Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES I) show that hypertensive people consume 18 per cent less dietary calcium than those with normal blood pressure.

Disturbances in calcium metabolism have been found in people suffering from primary hypertension. These include reduced blood calcium levels, increased urinary excretion of calcium, raised intracellular calcium levels, reduced cell membrane calcium binding, and other indicators of higher calcium needs. Some of these changes, however, may be secondary to blood pressure elevation. Some research suggests that alterations in calcium-regulating hormones in general, and vitamin D in particular, contribute to essential hypertension, especially salt-sensitive forms.

Calcium blood pressureResearchers involved in the Dutch Hypertension and Offspring Study studied young people with normal blood pressure. Some of them had a family history of high blood pressure while others did not. The findings showed that disturbances in calcium metabolism are present in the early phase of primary hypertension and may precede the development of high blood pressure. Changes in calcium metabolism may reflect a genetic basis for calcium-sensitive hypertension.

Increasing calcium intake has been shown to lower blood pressure in some cases. Supplemental dietary calcium may affect blood pressure by a number of mechanisms. It may affect smooth muscle cell contraction, hormone action, nervous system function and increase sodium excretion. In an eight week randomized, placebo-controlled study done in 1985 in the US, researchers assessed the effect of 1000 mg per day of calcium supplements on the blood pressure of 48 people with hypertension and 32 without. Compared with placebo, calcium significantly lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressures, but only in those with high blood pressure.

Whether calcium can lower blood pressure in cases where there is no apparent deficiency is not clear. Increasing calcium intake may lower blood pressure by increasing the excretion of sodium, and calcium supplements may be most useful in those who are salt-sensitive. Results from the University of Pittsburgh Trials of Hypertension Prevention (TOHP) showed calcium supplements (100 mg per day) to have little effect on blood pressure. The participants were healthy adult men and women (both white and African American) aged 30 to 54 years with high-normal diastolic blood pressure. However, the supplements did seem to lower blood pressure in white women, who are at particular risk of low calcium intakes. Supplements may be beneficial in cases where calcium intake is insufficient, which may be relatively common.

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