In a new study, researchers found that smoking may impair the body’s blood pressure autocorrect system.
This means in smokers, there is an overactive response to normal drops in blood pressure. It may explain why smokers may have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.
The research was conducted by a team from the Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
Previous research has shown that the human body has a buffering system that continuously monitors and maintains a healthy blood pressure
If blood pressure drops, a response called muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) is triggered to bring blood pressure back up to normal levels.
An additional system—called the baroreflex—helps correct if blood pressure gets too high.
In the study, the team tested 60 participants—18 smokers and 42 non-smokers.
None of the participants had high blood pressure. The smokers reported smoking an average of 17 cigarettes a day over a period of about 13 years.
They found that the blood pressure autocorrect system is broken in smokers.
After a burst of MSNA, the rise in blood pressure in a chronic smoker was about twice as great as in a non-smoker. This pushes blood pressure to unhealthy levels.
The researchers suspect that the cause of this is the impairment of baroreflex.
They believe this impairment could contribute to the eventual development of high blood pressure.
In addition, the team found that the diastolic blood pressure (the lower number of a blood pressure reading), mean arterial pressure and heart rate were much higher in smokers.
Smokers also had higher levels of MSNA. In addition, resting heart rate was much higher in smokers.
These findings provide further evidence of the harmfulness of smoking.
Future work needs to examine if quitting smoking can decrease these harms.
The lead author of the study is Lawrence Sinoway, director of the center.
The study is published in the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.
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