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New Cause Identified in High Blood Pressure


A study from Norway has shown that “stiff” arteries can cause high blood pressure.

It is estimated that nearly 9 million people in the UK suffer from high blood pressure and many more are undiagnosed. It is more common as we age so any research in this area is particular relevant to our age group.

The actual causes of blood pressure are unknown, but it is known that various factors such as kidney problems, being overweight or too much salt in the diet can affect blood pressure.

The new research put together existing experimental data with models of an aging human aorta. The data involved information from 74,000 people including blood sample collections from 65,000 to ensure serious results.

The team, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, found that, in their computer model of a virtual human, stiff arteries alone were enough to cause high blood pressure.

"Our results suggest that arterial stiffness represents a major therapeutic target. This is contrary to existing models," says Klas Pettersen, who was involved in the study.

He explained that when blood pressure travels down the aorta from the heart, a special group of cells in the aortic wall, called baroreceptors, sense the pressure in this stretch of the aortic wall and send signals with this information to the nervous system.

If the blood pressure is too high, these cells send stronger signals and the body is able to lower blood pressure. However, if the aorta gets stiffer, as typically happens with age, this stretch of the aorta is not as sensitive as it once was in measuring blood pressure. Thus, although a person's blood pressure may have increased, the baroreceptors do not signal as intensively as they should and the body does not get the message to lower blood pressure.

"With the stiffening of the wall that follows aging, these sensors become less able to send signals that reflect the actual blood pressure. Our mathematical model predicts the effects of this process on blood pressure," Klas Pettersen explained.

It is hoped that with further confirmation of this research, arterial stiffness will become an urgent target for treatment for high blood pressure.

In the meantime, there is still a lot people can do through lifestyle changes and medication to ensure their blood pressure is kept at a safe level.

A lot more information on blood pressure is available at:

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