Vitamin B-12 is one of the eight water-soluble vitamins that make up the B complex of vitamins. All of them are needed for numerous bodily functions required to stay healthy.
Vitamin B-12 and blood pressure are linked through the vitamin's role in the production of red blood cells and its potential to treat certain conditions relating to low blood pressure. #
Vitamin B-12 plays a key role in the production of healthy red blood cells, and deficiency can lead to the development of pernicious anemia, which means your blood pressure may be linked to the amount of B-12 in your diet.
Vitamin B-12 Benefits
Vitamin B-12 is found in almost all multivitamins, which is a testament to how valuable it is health-wise. Supplements are often recommended for those who are likely to suffer from a B-12 deficiency because of factors like a lack of dietary intake.
Vitamin B-12 is naturally present in animal products, so vegetarians and vegans are among those most likely to require vitamin B-12 supplements.
There are many benefits provided by vitamin B-12 because of its role in so many metabolic functions. The National Institutes of Health lists:
- Red blood cells: Vitamin B-12 is instrumental in maintaining the health and size of red blood cells.
- The nervous system: Vitamin B-12 helps sustain a barrier around the nerves, which is known as the myelin sheath. If this is not present (or breaks down over time due to a lack of vitamin B-12) the nerves are vulnerable to damage.
- Cell metabolism: The Mayo Clinic says vitamin B-12 is vital to the process of metabolizing fats and proteins into glucose so the body can use it for energy.
- DNA: Vitamin B-12 plays a role in the production of DNA, the genetic material that makes up all cells, allowing for increased cell regeneration.
You consume the majority of vitamin B-12 from a balanced diet, and unlike many water-soluble vitamins, it is not passed through the body in the urine. It is stored in the liver, and there is ordinarily several years' worth available — so deficiency is unlikely.
Nonetheless, if symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency arise, it's important to contact a health care professional for advice.
Vitamin B-12 in Excess
The Mayo Clinic explains that vitamin B-12 supplements are largely very safe, as the B-12 dosage they contain is not high enough to cause a damaging excess and any vitamin B-12 that isn't absorbed by the body is simply removed through the urine.
However, an increased B-12 dosage is required to treat a deficiency, and this often comes in the form of strengthened prescription pills or shots. These pills and shots can cause an excess of vitamin B-12 to enter the system, which can have negative consequences
The Mayo Clinic lists some excess vitamin B-12 side effects:
- Increased anxiety
If you have recently been prescribed vitamin B-12 pills or shots with a higher dosage and recognize any of these symptoms, contact your healthcare professional as soon as possible.
Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
Vitamin B-12 deficiency is not common, because the majority of people receive the required amount through diet alone. However, there are certain groups of people who may suffer from a deficiency due to an inability to absorb vitamin B-12 orally.
- Vegan and vegetarian diets: Vitamin B-12 is predominantly found in animal products such as meat and dairy, so vegans and vegetarians may miss out on the B-12 dosage they require.
- Weight loss surgery: This can affect the body's ability to absorb particular nutrients, including vitamin B-12.
- Celiac or Crohn's disease: These diseases affect the digestive system and can interfere with the way vitamin B-12 is absorbed.
The National Institutes of Health advise that the symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency can include tiredness, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, loss of balance and memory loss.
Vitamin B-12 and Blood Pressure
Pernicious anemia is a condition that can arise from prolonged vitamin B-12 deficiency. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute describes pernicious anemia as a condition in which the body is unable to produce enough healthy red blood cells due to insufficient levels of B-12.
This causes red blood cells to become unusually large because they are unable to split, and this puts increased pressure on the blood vessels and on the heart. The heart must work harder to ensure there are enough red blood cells to carry oxygen through the body.
Pernicious anemia is usually treated with pills or shots containing a high B-12 dosage so that the production of red blood cells can return to normal. It is important to treat pernicious anemia promptly because the increased pressure on the heart can lead to cardiovascular diseases and even stroke.
Another blood condition related to vitamin B-12 is known as orthostatic hypotension — the blood pressure falls upon standing or sitting. This condition can prove quite serious and can sometimes result in fainting. A 2012 study published in the Texas Heart Institute Journal found that vitamin B-12 may not only contribute to the development of orthostatic hypotension, but B-12 supplementation can alleviate the symptoms.
The links between pernicious anemia, orthostatic hypotension and vitamin B-12 suggest an important connection between vitamin B-12 and blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure and Periods
There is no consensus regarding menstruation's effects on blood pressure. As blood pressure consistently rises and falls throughout the day, it is hard to pinpoint a direct causation, so any connection between high blood pressure and periods remains inconclusive.
An August 2012 study published in the International Journal of Science and Nature found that while female sex hormones do indeed have an effect on the cardiovascular system, the body is capable of adjusting itself and its blood pressure throughout the duration of menstruation.
If there is a connection between high blood pressure and periods, it is not yet clinically significant enough to be cause for concern.
High Blood Pressure
It is not uncommon for individuals to suffer from high blood pressure and not even realize it, due to the subtle nature of the symptoms. The only way to have your blood pressure accurately checked is through a medical professional, so see your doctor if you have any such concerns.
- Mayo Clinic: "Vitamin B-12"
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin B-12"
- American College of Cardiology: "Vitamin B-12 Deficiency Anemia"
- National Library of Medicine: "Orthostatic Hypotension as a Manifestation of Vitamin B12 Deficiency"
- The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Pernicious Anemia"
- International Journal of Science and Nature: "Blood Pressure Variations During Different Phases of Menstrual Cycle"