In a recent study from the University of Virginia, scientists found that long-term use of drugs commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure and heart failure could be contributing to kidney damage.
They say patients should continue taking the medications, which include the well-known and widely used ACE inhibitors. But they are urging studies to better understand the drugs’ long-term effects.
Chronic high blood pressure affects a billion people around the world.
The researchers wanted to better understand why severe forms of the condition are often accompanied by thickening of the arteries and small blood vessels in the kidney, leading to organ damage.
They found that specialized kidney cells called renin cells play an important role. These cells normally produce renin, a vital hormone that helps the body regulate blood pressure.
But harmful changes in the renin cells can cause the cells to invade the walls of the kidney’s blood vessels.
The renin cells then trigger a buildup of another cell type, smooth muscle cells, that cause the vessels to thicken and stiffen. The result: Blood can’t flow through the kidney as it should.’
Further, the researchers found, that long-term use of drugs that inhibit the renin-angiotensin system, such as ACE inhibitors, or angiotensin receptor blockers, have a similar effect.
These drugs are widely used for many purposes, including treating high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and heart attacks, as well as preventing major heart problems.
But long-term use of the drugs was associated with hardened kidney vessels in both lab mice and humans.
The researchers note that the medications can be lifesaving for patients, so they stress the importance of continuing to take them.
But they say additional studies are needed to better understand the drugs’ long-term effects on the kidneys.
If you care about high blood pressure, please read studies that early time-restricted eating could help improve blood pressure, and how fasting may help reverse high blood pressure.
For more information about blood pressure, please see recent studies about 5 medicines to treat high blood pressure, and results showing vitamin D could improve blood pressure in people with diabetes.
The research was published in JCI Insight and conducted by Dr. Maria Luisa Sequeira Lopez et al.
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