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The #1 Cause of Arterial Stiffness (Hypertension)

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 04/16/2024

The #1 Cause of Arterial Stiffness (Hypertension)

I've got a secret to share with you about your arteries. They might be getting stiff and cranky, and it's all because of a tiny vitamin you've probably never heard of - Vitamin K2.

Imagine having something akin to WD-40 but for keeping your veins in tip-top shape; it’s all about flexibility and smoothness here. But here's the kicker: most of us are seriously lacking in K2, and it's setting us up for some major heart health issues down the road.

So, let's talk about Vitamin K2 deficiency and arterial stiffness. I promise, it's not as boring as it sounds. Truly, don't underestimate its power; it could very well save you from trouble. Ready to dive in?

The Role of Vitamin K2 in Arterial Health

Vitamin K2 plays a vital role in maintaining healthy, flexible arteries and preventing dangerous calcification that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

This essential nutrient works by directing calcium into the bones where it belongs, and away from the arteries where it can cause serious problems.

Preventing Calcium Buildup in Arteries

One of the key ways Vitamin K2 supports arterial health is by activating a protein called matrix Gla protein (MGP). MGP acts like a traffic cop, ensuring that calcium gets deposited in the bones and teeth, not in the soft tissues like arteries.

When there's not enough Vitamin K2 available, MGP remains inactive and calcium can start to accumulate in the artery walls, leading to arterial stiffness and calcification. Over time, this buildup narrows the arteries and increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Vitamin K2 illustration

Synergy Between Vitamin K2 and Vitamin D3

While Vitamin K2 is a powerhouse on its own, it works even better when combined with Vitamin D3. These two nutrients have a synergistic effect on arterial health.

Vitamin D3 helps the body absorb calcium from the gut, but it needs Vitamin K2 to make sure that calcium ends up in the right place.

Studies have shown that taking Vitamin K2 and D3 together can significantly reduce artery wall thickness and improve overall vascular health.

It's important to note that Vitamin K2 deficiency is surprisingly common, and can have serious consequences for arterial health. Without enough K2, calcium can build up in the arteries, leading to stiffness, calcification, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Dietary Sources and Supplements of Vitamin K2

So, where can you get this crucial nutrient? Let's examine some of the best dietary sources of Vitamin K2 and the role of supplements.

Natural Food Sources High in Saturated Fat

Vitamin K2 is found primarily in animal-based foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol. These include grass-fed meats, egg yolks, and full-fat dairy products.

One of the richest sources is a Japanese fermented soybean dish called natto. Just one serving of natto contains a whopping 1,103 micrograms of Vitamin K2. Other good sources include goose liver pâté, hard cheeses like Gouda, and butter from grass-fed cows.

The Importance of Supplements

While getting nutrients from whole foods is always best, many people simply don't consume enough Vitamin K2-rich foods to meet their needs. This is where supplements can be helpful.

Vitamin K2 supplements, particularly MK-7, have been shown to effectively raise Vitamin K2 levels in the body and reduce arterial stiffness. They can be especially beneficial for those following a vegan or vegetarian diet, as most K2 sources are animal-based.

When supplementing, a good rule of thumb is to add about 100 micrograms of Vitamin K2 for every 10,000 IU of Vitamin D3. This helps ensure that the increased calcium absorption from D3 is properly directed by K2.

It's important to note that many people are deficient in Vitamin K2 simply because they're unaware of its importance and don't know which foods contain it.

By incorporating more K2-rich foods and considering supplementation, you can take a big step towards protecting your arterial health.

Impact of Lifestyle Choices on Arterial Stiffness

While Vitamin K2 is a key player in arterial health, it's not the only factor to consider. Our lifestyle choices, from the foods we eat to the medications we take, can have a big impact on the flexibility and function of our arteries.

Food for healthy bones, vitamin D source. sardines, beans, dried figs, almonds, cottage cheese, milk

The Double-Edged Sword of Calcium Supplements

Calcium supplements are often touted as a way to support bone health, especially for older adults. However, taking high doses of calcium without adequate Vitamin K2 can actually do more harm than good.

Excess calcium that isn't properly directed into the bones can end up in the arteries, contributing to calcification and stiffness. In fact, studies have shown that taking calcium supplements without Vitamin K2 can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

If you do take calcium supplements, make sure you're balancing them with adequate K2.

Medication-Induced Risks for Arterial Health

Certain medications can also have unintended consequences for arterial health. Warfarin, a common blood thinner, works by blocking the activity of Vitamin K1 in the liver.

However, it also inhibits Vitamin K2, which can lead to increased arterial calcification over time. If you're on Warfarin or a similar medication, talk to your doctor about monitoring your Vitamin K2 levels and considering supplementation if necessary.

Diet's Role in Arterial Flexibility

Finally, the foods we eat every day can have a big impact on the health and flexibility of our arteries. A low-carb, anti-inflammatory diet can be particularly beneficial.

By reducing inflammation in the body, a low-carb diet can help prevent arterial damage and stiffening that can lead to heart disease.

It's also important to limit omega-6 fatty acids, found in vegetable oils and processed foods, as these can promote inflammation in the arteries.

In contrast, omega-3 fatty acids from fish and fish oil supplements have anti-inflammatory properties that can help keep arteries supple and healthy.

By making smart dietary choices and being mindful of the medications we take, we can create a lifestyle that supports healthy, flexible arteries well into old age.

Conclusion

So, there you have it - the surprising link between Vitamin K2 deficiency and arterial stiffness. Who knew such a tiny vitamin could have such a big impact on our heart health?

But now that you're in the know, you've got the power to keep your arteries happy and healthy. Load up on those K2-rich foods, consider a supplement, and give your blood vessels the TLC they deserve.

Your future self will thank you when you're still running laps around the block at 90. And who knows, you might just be the one to spread the word and save a few lives along the way.

Vitamin K2: the unsung hero of heart health. Pass it on.

Supporting Data

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4566462/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22516724/

https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4274625/

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