People with high blood pressure know that to control the disease, low-salt diets and regular exercise are very important.
Now researchers find that skin, the largest organ of the body, may help control blood pressure and heart rate.
In a study recently published in eLife, researchers from University of Cambridge show that skin can help regulate blood pressure and heart rate when the amount of oxygen available in the environment changes.
Although the research was done in mice, the researchers believe that it is likely to be true in humans.
In high blood pressure, the flow of blood in the skin and other parts of the body reduces. If the condition is not controlled, the symptom can get worse.
Previously researchers have shown that when a tissue is starved of oxygen, the blood flow will increase to that tissue.
This often happens when the person is in areas of high altitude or air pollution. Smoking or obese people may have the same condition.
When this happens, the increase in the blood flow is controlled by a group of proteins called HIF.
The researchers find that in mice that did not have HIF protein in the skin, the low levels of oxygen affected their heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature and general levels of activity in a different way compared to that in normal mice whose skin produced HIF protein.
For example, when skin can produce HIF proteins, in low oxygen condition, the blood pressure and heart rate rise, and this is followed by a period of up to 36 hours where blood pressure and heart rate decrease below normal levels.
By around 48 hours after exposure to low levels of oxygen, blood pressure and heart rate levels had returned to normal.
When the skin lacks HIF proteins, there was a dramatically change in when this process starts and how long it takes.
The researchers said “Low oxygen levels — whether temporary or sustained — are common and can be related to our natural environment or to factors such as smoking and obesity.”
“Given that skin is the largest organ in our body, it perhaps shouldn’t be too surprising that it plays a role in regulation such a fundamental mechanism as blood pressure.”
“We hope that our study will help us better understand how the body’s response to such conditions may increase our risk of — or even cause — hypertension.”
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