Ultraviolet light may contribute to geographic and racial blood pressure differences

Hypertension. 1997 Aug;30(2 Pt 1):150-6. doi: 10.1161/01.hyp.30.2.150.


Mean systolic and diastolic pressures and the prevalence of hypertension vary throughout the world. Published data suggest a linear rise in blood pressure at increasing distances from the equator. Similarly, blood pressure is higher in winter than summer. Blood pressure also is affected by variations in skin pigmentation. Altered calcium, vitamin D, and parathyroid hormone status is associated with hypertension and may vary with latitude and season. Since changes in UV light affect vitamin D and parathyroid hormone status and UV light intensity are influenced by seasonal change and latitude, these disparate observations suggest an association between blood pressure and ultraviolet light. This discussion presents the hypothesis that reduced epidermal vitamin D3 photosynthesis associated with high skin melanin content and/or decreased UV light intensity at distances from the equator, alone or when coupled with decreased dietary calcium and vitamin D, may be associated with reduced vitamin D stores and increased parathyroid hormone secretion. These changes may stimulate growth of vascular smooth muscle and enhance its contractility by affecting intracellular calcium, adrenergic responsiveness, and/or endothelial function. Thus, UV light intensity and efficiency of epidermal vitamin D3 photosynthesis may contribute to geographic and racial variability in blood pressure and the prevalence of hypertension.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Pressure / radiation effects*
  • Geography*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Parathyroid Hormone / blood
  • Racial Groups*
  • Ultraviolet Rays*
  • Vitamin D / metabolism


  • Parathyroid Hormone
  • Vitamin D