Keeping women’s hearts healthy

Women with higher lycopene levels had healthier blood vessels and premenopausal women deficient in vitamin D developed high blood pressure later in life, two new studies reveal.

Doctors in a lycopene study said that atherosclerosis—when coronary arteries narrow and stiffen, leading to heart disease—begins with inflamed blood vessels and wanted to see if lycopene levels could predict blood vessel health. Researchers measured lycopene levels in over 250 healthy women, aged 31 to 75, and found that women with higher lycopene levels had more flexible blood vessels than those with lower levels, and LDL cholesterol levels were about 16 percent lower and C-reactive protein levels—a sign of inflammation—were 37 percent lower.

In a blood pressure study, doctors wanted to see if premenopausal vitamin D levels could predict high blood pressure later in life. Researchers took annual blood pressure readings from over 550 premenopausal women over the course of 15 years. At the start of the study, 2 percent of the women had been diagnosed with high blood pressure and researchers discovered another 4 percent who had not been diagnosed. By the end of the study, another 19 percent of the women had developed high blood pressure for a total of 25 percent.

Women who were deficient in vitamin D at the start of the study were three times more likely to develop high blood pressure later in life than were those with normal vitamin D levels.

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