Vitamins play a significant role in many of the functions inside your body. Your cardiovascular health depends on your vitamin intake as well. Certain vitamins keep your blood vessels healthy by maintaining their pliability and reducing hardness. A hardened artery cannot fully dilate, which obstructs blood flow and may lead to chronic disease. Vitamins D, E and K are necessary for blood vessel functioning.
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Insufficient vitamin D levels may lead to poor blood vessel health and functioning, according to a 2011 study from the Emory/Georgia Tech Predictive Health Institute. Researchers took 554 participants and measured blood levels of vitamin D. Then the subjects participated in an exercise that allowed researchers to evaluate the ability of the blood vessels to dilate. Researchers inflated blood pressure cuffs around each subject's arm and then monitored the ability of the vessels to dilate once the cuff was removed. Researchers found a direct correlation with low levels of vitamin D and poorer arterial functioning. Those participants with low vitamin D had less pliable arteries that were not as effectively dilating.
Vitamin E works directly on the body's ability to dilate blood vessels. This vitamin stimulates two enzymes responsible for regulating vasoconstriction and dilation. These enzymes inhibit arachidonic acid metabolism. When arachidonic acid metabolizes, it leads to the production of a prostaglandin that causes vasoconstriction. Thus, vitamin E helps to dilate the blood vessels through this mechanism.
Nitric oxide is a chemical your body produces for many purposes. Nitric oxide works on the vascular system as a potent vasodilator. It also inhibits vasoconstriction. Vitamin C has been shown to increase the body's production of nitric oxide, according to a study published in "Circulation Research" in 2002. During this study mice underwent 26 to 28 weeks of vitamin C supplementation. Researchers found that vitamin C increased the body's production of nitric oxide.
Your body needs a certain amount of vitamins to maintain healthy functioning. Adults between 19 and 70 years of age need 600 international units of vitamin D daily. After 70, you should increase to 800 IU per day. After age 14, people need to take in 15 mg per day of vitamin E. Adult males need 90 mg of vitamin C per day, while adult females need 75 mg per day.