High blood pressure or hypertension is a severe silent disorder that increases one’s risk of heart disease and stroke. Scientists have found that high blood pressure caused by specific signals from the brain can promote heart disease by changing stem cells in the bone marrow. Their results show how an overactive sympathetic nervous system can contribute to hypertension by messaging the bone marrow stem cells to make more lymphocytes or white blood cells that overly fill blood vessels.
High blood pressure can affect millions of adults, teens, and children. High blood pressure is suggested to be a leading risk factor for heart disease. Hypertension risk factors can also include obesity, excessive alcohol intake, smoking, and genetic predisposition (family history). The most common way to treat high blood pressure is via prescribed beta-blockers.
Scientists at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute found that high blood pressure caused by specific signals in the brain promote heart-disease by altering the bone marrow stem cells. Their study is published in Haematologica showing that overactive sympathetic nervous systems are at the root of increased blood pressure levels because they tell the bone marrow stem cells to make more white blood cells which fill the blood vessels restricting ease of flow.
Associate Professor of Biology, Dr. Murphy, at the Baker Institute shares that, “Hypertension is a major, independent risk factor of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, but we need more information to determine how it is resulting in heart attacks and strokes." Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is defined as the hardening and narrowing of the arteries that will silently and slowly block passage of blood flow.
"We now know that significant changes in the immune system can contribute significantly to heart disease," Murphy says. "We aimed to determine how the sympathetic nervous system through the brain directly promotes atherosclerosis in the setting of hypertension."
"We have discovered that this form of high blood pressure, often associated with stress, causes changes within the bone marrow leading to increased white blood cells circulating through our vessels. This is significant as the general view of hypertension is that it is mainly a disease of the blood vessels, which means other heart-damaging events are missed,” describes the scientist.
The research continues to investigate which molecules are at play hoping to increase awareness for the reasons current therapies tend not to work out. The team believes that keeping stress levels controlled, anxiety at a low, and pain down are ideal ways to combat hypertension and its impact on bone marrow stem cells.