Blood vessel abnormalities that disrupt normal blood flow may contribute to high blood pressure, according to a study at Johns Hopkins and Veteran's General Hospital in Taiwan.
Determining whether high blood pressure causes or results from arterial blood-flow problems may improve understanding and eventually treatment of heart disease, the nation's leading killer, the researchers say. The study will be presented at 10 a.m., Nov. 13 at the American Heart Association's 69th annual Scientific Sessions in New Orleans.
Scientists compared 19 people who occasionally had elevated blood pressure but had a strong family history of high blood pressure with 14 people with normal blood pressure and no family history of the disease. Blood flow and pressure in the aorta, the heart's main blood vessel, were measured before and after all participants received a beta-blocker, a drug that decreases heart rate.
Results show those people with only occasionally elevated blood pressure already had blood vessel abnormalities before the onset of sustained high blood pressure. They also had reactions to the beta-blocker which were similar to those in people who already had high blood pressure.
Those with normal blood pressure had no blood vessel abnormalities and reacted normally to the beta-blocker, the study shows. Previous Hopkins research demonstrated that beta-blockers worsen blood vessel abnormalities in people with high blood pressure.
"Since these vascular abnormalities occur before fixed hypertension is manifested, our results suggest that vascular changes may lead to hypertension, rather than vice versa, in people," says Frank Chi-Pong Yin, M.D., Ph.D., the study's senior author and a professor of medicine at Hopkins.