Hypertension Treatments Research

With high blood pressure affecting one in three American adults and a growing number of adolescents, research in hypertension is both vital and enthusiastically pursued. As a result, a steady stream of new findings from hypertension and cardiovascular research is emerging.

Research of Hypertension’s Effects on Dementia

It’s long been known that hypertension can cause vascular dementia, a disorder caused by damage to the brain’s blood vessels due to strokes. Research on hypertension risk now suggests that even mild hypertension may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, with damage starting decades before dementia symptoms develop.

Key to this discovery are “white matter lesions,” or scarring of the brain’s nerve fibers. White matter refers to the “insulation” surrounding neurons and is essential for the proper transmission of brain signals. Hypertension damages the blood vessels that supply oxygen to white matter. Many people diagnosed with vascular dementia also display signs of Alzheimer’s.

To determine if hypertension causes Alzheimer’s, the National Institute of Health is including checking dementia rates in its hypertension/cardiovascular research project SPRINT, a long term study of the affects of hypertension on Americans 55 years of age and older. In the early part of 2010, the NIH plans to recruit over 7,500 people with hypertension for SPRINT.

As for the possible link between hypertension and dementia, until the matter is proven, researchers suggest that people make lifestyle choices that reduce the risk of hypertension–a suggestion likely to improve health whether or not the risk of dementia is present.

Beta Blockers and Hypertension Research

A review of beta blockers by Cochrane researchers confirmed that use of the medication as a secondary treatment for hypertension results in lowered blood pressure. The primary use of beta blockers in hypertension treatment is to lower the risk of strokes and other cardiovascular events.

When combined with calcium channel blockers and thiazide diuretics, beta blockers reduce hypertension by approximately 30 percent more than if the primary medication is used alone. This same study also revealed that beta blockers have the greatest affect on diastolic blood pressure (blood pressure when the heart is at rest), while calcium channel blockers and diuretics primarily affect systolic blood pressure, when the heart is beating.

This may, according to the study, explain why beta blockers are less effective than diuretics at reducing the risk of cardiovascular events.

Research in Hypertension and Kidney Enzymes

Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) are a family of hypertension medications that lower blood pressure levels by inhibiting the formation of angiotensin II, a chemical that causes blood vessel constriction.

Researchers at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine believe they may have found an enzyme called ACE2 that directly neutralizes angiotensin II activity in the system. The study, performed on mice, was published in the January 2010 issue of Hypertension. If the study results hold true in human testing, ACE2 could become a focal point of cardiovascular research.

Resources

Beal, J. (2010). Beta-blockers effective in combination therapies for hypertension. Retrieved January 28, 2010, from the Medical News Today Web site: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/176567.php.

Neergaard, L. (2010). Study will put to test growing evidence linking high blood pressure to dementia. Retrieved January 28, 2010, from the Google News Web site: http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ ALeqM5gNcB9zgy0Q645lLLlU3kd3m5sITA.

Paul, M. (2009). Enzyme may create new approach to hypertension therapy. Retrieved January 28, 2010, from the Medical News Today Web site: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/174480.php.