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Vitamin D and Pulmonary Hypertension: Benefits and Uses

Medically reviewed by Allen J. Blaivas, D.O.
Written by Anika Brahmbhatt
Posted on July 16, 2021

If you have pulmonary hypertension (PH), you may be curious about the role vitamin D plays in your condition. As one myPHteam member wrote, “Going to rest today — I have to go for a transfusion and infusion of vitamin D next week.”

Though research remains inconclusive, there are some indications that vitamin D can benefit people living with PH. Moreover, vitamin D can play an important role in a person’s overall health. Therefore, it can be worthwhile to speak with your health care provider about ways to ensure you’re getting enough in your diet.

What Is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a nutrient that your body needs to make your muscles move, help your nerves send signals, and allow your immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses that can make you sick. Vitamin D is also important so bones can absorb the calcium they need to be strong and healthy.

There are two kinds of vitamin D: vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 is mostly found in plants, mushrooms, and yeast. Vitamin D3 can be found in oily fish and is also made in the body during sun exposure. Additionally, vitamin D3 is later converted to 25-hydroxycholecalciferol, which helps turn on and off the genes that allow vitamin D to carry out its function in the body.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, foods that are good sources of vitamin D include:

  • Beef liver
  • Fortified cereal
  • Fish (such as salmon, sardines, swordfish, and cod liver oil)
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified milk and orange juice

Your body breaks vitamin D down into its active form, called 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D — which is also known as calcitriol and can be found in supplements. This active form of vitamin D can affect the cells involved in the immune system.

Vitamin D Levels in People With PH

Researchers have been investigating the various factors that can play a role in PH vulnerability. Although there is not yet conclusive evidence that a vitamin D deficiency is connected to PH, there are a few factors you should consider regarding how vitamin D can potentially affect your condition.

A vitamin D deficiency can activate the body’s renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS), which regulates systemic vascular resistance (the amount of force exerted on circulating blood) and blood volume. Activation of the RAAS can be associated with the development of pulmonary hypertension because of the system’s effect on the cardiovascular system.

Vitamin D also affects endothelial cells, which make up the membrane inside the heart and blood vessels. Some researchers have suggested that a vitamin D deficiency could be related to endothelial dysfunction, but more research is needed before an association can be confirmed.

A 2017 study found that vitamin D supplementation improved survival in animals with PH. It has also been suggested that lower vitamin D levels may predict a poorer prognosis (outlook) for people with pulmonary arterial hypertension, which is when high blood pressure occurs in the lungs, specifically caused by the arteries.

Are Vitamin D Supplements Right For You?

Despite the potential positive effects of vitamin D in people with PH, it’s vital to have a discussion with your physician before adjusting your vitamin D intake. Some experts have suggested potential dangers that can arise when you take too much vitamin D.

The Office of Dietary Supplements warns that too much vitamin D can cause symptoms including:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle weakness
  • Confusion
  • Pain
  • Dehydration
  • Kidney stones

Vitamin D can also interact with some medications, so don’t start any supplementation plan before speaking with your physician.

Talk With People Who Understand

On myPHteam, the social network and online support group for people with pulmonary hypertension and their loved ones, members discuss the chronic nature of the disease. Here, more than 36,000 members from across the world come together to ask questions, offer advice and support, and share stories with others who understand life with pulmonary hypertension.

Are you working to increase your vitamin D intake? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation on myPHteam.

Posted on July 16, 2021
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Allen J. Blaivas, D.O. is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in Critical Care Medicine, Pulmonary Disease, and Sleep Medicine. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Anika Brahmbhatt is an undergraduate student at Boston University, where she is pursuing a dual degree in media science and psychology. Learn more about her here.

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