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Researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have potentially found a new way to combat hypertension by discovering how blood pressure is controlled.

What is hypertension?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has noticeable symptoms. However, if it is left untreated, your risk of serious problems, such as heart attack and stroke, is increased.

Persistently high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as heart disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, peripheral arterial disease, aortic aneurysm, kidney disease, and vascular dementia.

The only way to find out if your blood pressure is too high is to have your blood pressure checked. Blood pressure is recorded using two numbers. The systolic pressure (upper number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body. The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to blood flow in the blood vessels. They are both measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).

You can test your blood pressure at home using a blood pressure monitoring device, and your physician can also test this for you. In general, the guidelines for blood pressure are:

Blood Pressure Category Systolic mm Hg
(upper number)
Diastolic mm Hg
(lower number)
NORMAL Less than 120 and Less than 80
ELEVATED 120 – 129 and Less than 80
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
Stage 1 Hypertension
130 – 139 or 80 – 89
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
Stage 2 Hypertension
140 or higher or 90 or higher
HYPERTENSIVE CRISIS
Consult your doctor
Higher than 180 and/or Higher than 120

Generally, patients with Stage 1 hypertension are mostly recommended to make lifestyle changes to reduce their risks, but those with Stage 2 hypertension or higher normally have to take anti-hypertensive medicines to keep their blood pressure under control. This new research could potentially lead to better ways of managing high blood pressure.Hypertension is a very common condition worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that high blood pressure causes 7.5 million deaths globally; this is over 12 percent of all deaths.

A new way to combat hypertension

A new study published in the journal Circulation showed that the protein galectin-1 influences the function of another protein known as the L-type (Cav1.2) calcium channel [1]. The L-type Cav1.2 calcium channel is found throughout the animal kingdom and is critical for CNS function, cardiac and smooth muscle contractility, neuroendocrine regulation, and many other processes.

In the arteries, the L-type Cav1.2 calcium channel causes the blood vessels to contract, and by lowering the activity of this calcium channel, the researchers showed that galectin-1 can reduce blood pressure. Given that hypertension leads to the development of other diseases, preventing it has the potential to halt or delay the development of many diseases at once.

Traditionally, calcium channel blockers (CCBs) are used to treat hypertension, but the problem with these is they can have serious side effects. Such medications can increase the risk of heart failure in people with hypertension, as they totally shut down the calcium channel. This makes the discovery here very important, because having a drug that can adjust the activity of the L-type (CaV1.2) calcium channel, not just shutting it down totally and preventing normal function, could prove to be a solution to hypertension.

There is more good news: Galectin-1 only targets the L-type (CaV1.2) calcium channel in blood vessels, meaning that it does not interfere with other calcium channels elsewhere in the other tissues of the body and so does not disrupt their function. The researchers believe that this signifies minimal side effects.

Conclusion

Ways to better control hypertension are certainly welcome, and while this does not address the age-related damage that causes blood pressure to rise in the first place, it is a potentially better solution than CCBs.

Literature

[1] Hu, Z., Li, G., Wang, J. W., Chong, S. Y., Yu, D., Wang, X., … & Colecraft, H. M. (2018). Regulation of Blood Pressure by Targeting CaV1. 2-Galectin-1 Protein Interaction. Circulation, CIRCULATIONAHA-117.

About the author

Steve Hill

Steve serves on the LEAF Board of Directors and is the Editor in Chief, coordinating the daily news articles and social media content of the organization. He is an active journalist in the aging research and biotechnology field and has to date written over 500 articles on the topic as well as attending various medical industry conferences. In 2019 he was listed in the top 100 journalists covering biomedicine and longevity research in the industry report – Top-100 Journalists covering advanced biomedicine and longevity created by the Aging Analytics Agency. His work has been featured in H+ magazine, Psychology Today, Singularity Weblog, Standpoint Magazine, and, Keep me Prime, and New Economy Magazine. Steve has a background in project management and administration which has helped him to build a united team for effective fundraising and content creation, while his additional knowledge of biology and statistical data analysis allows him to carefully assess and coordinate the scientific groups involved in the project. In 2015 he led the Major Mouse Testing Program (MMTP) for the International Longevity Alliance and in 2016 helped the team of the SENS Research Foundation to reach their goal for the OncoSENS campaign for cancer research.
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