Understanding High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a pervasive condition affecting millions of individuals globally.
It arises when the force of blood against artery walls is too high, potentially damaging blood vessels and elevating risks of heart disease, stroke, and other health issues.
Contributing factors to high blood pressure include genetics, age, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and a diet rich in salt and saturated fats.
Hypertension is often asymptomatic, earning it the moniker “silent killer.” Regular blood pressure checks are crucial for early detection and management, with lifestyle changes typically the first line of defense.
Hypertension Treatment and Potential Risks
Treatment may also include medication, such as diuretics, ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and angiotensin receptor blockers.
However, a recent study led by scientists from the University of Virginia suggests that long-term use of such drugs may contribute to kidney damage.
The study found that renin cells, specialized kidney cells that usually produce a hormone that helps regulate blood pressure, can undergo harmful changes causing them to invade the walls of the kidney’s blood vessels.
This invasion leads to vessel thickening and stiffening, impeding proper blood flow through the kidney.
Interestingly, long-term use of drugs inhibiting the renin-angiotensin system, including ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers, showed a similar effect.
These medications, widely used to treat high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and heart attacks, could lead to hardened kidney vessels in both lab mice and humans.
The Way Forward
Despite these findings, the researchers stress that these medications are often lifesaving and patients should continue taking them.
They have called for further research to understand better the long-term effects of these drugs on the kidneys.
Management of high blood pressure remains crucial, involving regular monitoring and adherence to treatment plans.
Home monitoring can help individuals track their condition and make necessary adjustments to their treatment.
Stress reduction techniques, such as relaxation exercises or regular physical activity, can also be beneficial in managing high blood pressure.
This study underscores the complexity of long-term high blood pressure management and the need for personalized treatment plans that consider the potential side effects of medication.
The study was led by Dr. Maria Luisa Sequeira Lopez and her team and was published in the JCI Insight journal.
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