The Surprising Link Between Vitamin K2 and Blood Pressure

  • By Performance Lab
  • 5 minute read
The Surprising Link Between Vitamin K2 and Blood Pressure

Vitamin K2, the nutrient best known for its role in blood clotting, has profound benefits for cardiovascular health.

Studies show that vitamin K2 can block the progression of arterial thickening and stiffening, therefore, blood pressure, and can reduce the risk of dying from heart disease by up to 57%.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. It covers various diseases affecting the cardiac muscle (heart) and the vascular system supplying the heart, brain, and other vital organs.

While CVD has many causes, diet, and lifestyle continue to play a significant role. Recent research has shown that vitamin K2 may protect heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular events thanks to its role in preventing calcium buildup.

If you’re unfamiliar with the link between vitamin K2 and your heart, you’re in the right place.

In this article, we’ll cover the basics of vitamin K2, how it can improve cardiovascular health and blood pressure, and how much you need.

Let’s get started!

What is Vitamin K2?

Vitamin K2, also known as menaquinone, is a group of fat-soluble compounds essential for blood clotting, insulin sensitivity, bone health, and cardiovascular health. Many of its functions are attributed to its role in various proteins, including 1:

  • Coagulation factors (II, VII, IX, X, and protein C, and protein S)
  • Osteocalcin (a bone-forming protein)
  • Matrix-Gla protein (MGP) (an anti-calcification protein)

These proteins are essential to carry out many of the functions of vitamin K supplementation. Both in nature and the human body, vitamin K2 comes in two forms: vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and vitamin K2 (menaquinone, MK-4 to MK-10) 1, 2.

Vitamin K1 is found only in plant-based foods like leafy green vegetables, while vitamin K2 is primarily in animal foods and fermented soy products like natto.

So, for vegans and vegetarians who exclude animal products from their diet, meeting the requirements for K2 can be tricky—and that’s why supplementation is a must!

Vitamin K2 and Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of illness and death in the United States, with over 62 million people dealing with CVD and another 50 million with hypertension 3.

In 2000 alone, more than 946,000 deaths were attributed to cardiovascular disease, accounting for roughly 39% of all deaths in the country.

Although mitigating the risk of CVD takes conscious diet and lifestyle alterations, certain nutrients can help—and research shows that certain aspects of vitamin K2 may make it a protector of the cardiovascular system by 4, 5:

  • Reducing arterial stiffness
  • Slowing the progression of arterial and valve calcification
  • Reducing the incidence of diabetes
  • Decreasing cardiovascular mortality

A 2004 study published in the Journal of Nutrition looked at the effects of vitamin K intake, both phylloquinone and menaquinone, on aortic calcification and coronary heart disease (CHD) 6.

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They found that the risk of CHD mortality decreased with higher intakes of menaquinone, but it was an inverse relationship. However, phylloquinone intake was not related to any outcomes, suggesting that vitamin K2 is a more powerful cardiovascular health protector.

Another study found that a high intake of menaquinones, especially MK-7, MK-8, and MK-9, could protect against coronary heart disease 7.

So, why the link?

Researchers have known for a while that vitamin K2 plays a critical role in activating proteins that help prevent calcium from accumulating and calcifying in blood vessels.

While numerous studies have shown that K2 can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, studies also show that increasing menaquinone intake could also reduce the progression of existing atherosclerosis 8.

How It Works

Sufficient intake of vitamin K2 (menaquinone) has been linked to a reduced risk of vascular damage because it activates Matrix Gla-protein (MGP), which inhibits calcium deposition in arterial walls.

Because calcium isn’t accumulating, it’s free to do its other jobs, leaving arteries healthy and flexible 9. A vitamin K2 deficiency leads to inadequate activation of MGP, impairing calcium removal from blood vessels and increasing the risk of blood vessel calcification 10.

Because calcium sticks to vessel walls, it causes them to thicken via the formation of calcified plaques (typical of atherosclerosis progression), which is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular events.

Essentially, vitamin K2 activates the proteins that keep calcium in the bones and out of the arteries, preventing it from sticking to arterial walls, limiting blood supply, and increasing blood pressure.

How Does Vitamin K2 Help Blood Pressure?

Hypertension is the most common disease in developed countries. In 2010, it was estimated that around 31.1% of the global adult population (1.39 billion people) was hypertensive, defined as systolic BP ≥140 mmHg and diastolic BP ≥90 mmHg 11.

Because of the stress it imparts on the heart and the rest of the body, it drastically increases the risk of stroke, myocardial infarction, heart failure, and renal failure—and several studies have shown that reducing blood pressure can have profound influences on reducing the incidence of stroke and myocardial infarction 12.

Although hypertension is multifactorial, there are simple things you can do—diet and lifestyle-wise—to reduce blood pressure and reduce your risk of cardiovascular events. Vitamin K2 supplementation is one avenue.

Several studies have shown that low vitamin D3 (measured as low 25-hydroxyvitamin D ) and low vitamin K2 (measured high dp-ucMGP) are linked to a higher risk of vascular disease and adverse cardiovascular events 13.

Because both vitamins are involved in bone metabolism and mineral deposition in the vasculature, insufficient concentrations could lead to calcification in valves and vessels, leading to vascular stiffness and increased blood pressure.

A 2017 study published in Hypertension found that the combination of low vitamin D and low vitamin K was associated with higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure, with a similar trend for incident hypertension 13.

In short, most studies agree that high-dose menaquinone intake can offer protection against various cardiovascular events by reducing arterial calcification, which subsequently improves arterial flexibility and blood flow, thereby reducing blood pressure.

How Much Vitamin K2 Do You Need?

So, how much vitamin K2 do you need to maintain levels?

Several studies agree that an intake of at least 32 mcg per day of vitamin K2 is sufficient to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events—but that doesn’t include the intake of phylloquinone or vitamin K1.

In one study, this amount was associated with a 50% reduction in death from cardiovascular issues related to arterial calcification and a 25% reduction in all-cause mortality 6.

Another study found that for every 10 mcg of dietary vitamin K2 consumed in the forms of MK-7, MK-8, and MK-9, the risk of coronary heart disease decreased by 9% having lower rates of coronary artery calcium in their hearts.

Getting sufficient amounts of vitamin K2 in the diet is pretty simple, as it’s available in a wide range of animal-based foods. But for plant-based eaters, consider Performance Lab D3+K2.


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