Kristen Sparrow • March 18, 2018
I was unaware of this connection, that Vitamin D deficiency can lead to lower vagal control, or higher heart rate variability, higher stress levels. Easy enough to add Vitamin D to the regimen of patients being seen for high blood pressure and other stress related illnesses. Nice! We’ve looked at Vitamin D and its importance here and here and here.
Vitamin D deficiency (≤50nmol/L 25-hydroxy vitamin D) is a cardiovascular (CV) risk factor that affects approximately one billion people worldwide, particularly those affected by chronic kidney disease (CKD). Individuals with CKD demonstrate abnormal cardiac autonomic nervous system activity, which has been linked to the significant rates of CV-related mortality in this population. Whether vitamin D deficiency has a direct association with regulation of cardiac autonomic activity has never been explored in humans.
Thirty-four (34) healthy, normotensive subjects were studied and categorized based on 25-hydroxy vitamin D deficiency (deficient vs. non-deficient, n = 7 vs. 27), as well as 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D levels (above vs. below 25th percentile, n = 8 vs. 26). Power spectral analysis of electrocardiogram recordings provided measures of cardiac autonomic activity across low frequency (LF) and high frequency (HF, representative of vagal contribution) bands, representative of the sympathetic and vagal limbs of the autonomic nervous system when transformed to normalized units (nu), respectively, as well as overall cardiosympathovagal balance (LF:HF) during graded angiotensin II (AngII) challenge (3 ng/kg/min × 30 min, 6 ng/kg/min × 30 min).
At baseline, significant suppression of sympathovagal balance was observed in the 25-hydroxy vitamin D-deficient participants (LF:HF, p = 0.02 vs. non-deficient), although no other differences were observed throughout AngII challenge. Participants in the lowest 1,25-dihydroxy VD quartile experienced significant withdrawal of inhibitory vagal control, as well as altered overall sympathovagal balance throughout AngII challenge (HF, mean difference = -6.98 ± 3 nu, p = 0.05; LF:HF, mean difference = 0.34 ± 0.1, p = 0.043 vs. above 25th percentile).
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with suppression of resting cardiac autonomic activity, while low 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D levels are associated with unfavourable cardiac autonomic activity during an acute AngII stressor, offering a potential pathophysiological mechanism that may be acting to elevate CV risk in in populations with low vitamin D status.