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Stiff Arteries Tied to High Blood Pressure

Update Date: May 28, 2014 10:51 AM EDT

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a chronic health condition that occurs when the force of blood flow against the artery walls is high enough to cause complications. This condition can be caused by underlying health conditions, genetics or poor diet and exercise. In a new study, researchers examined another potential cause of high blood pressure and discovered that having stiff arteries alone can be a risk factor.

"Our results suggest that arterial stiffness represents a major therapeutic target. This is contrary to existing models, which typically explain high blood pressure in terms of defective kidney function," said Klas Pettersen, a researcher at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and first author of the study.

For this study, the researchers analyzed data and models on the human aorta that were available from existing studies. With this information, the researchers used a computer model to assess the effects of stiff arteries caused by aging on blood pressure. They found that when the aorta stiffens over time, a particular group of cells known as the baroreceptors can no longer signal the rise in pressure to the central nervous system, which then prevents the system from reducing blood pressure levels. Under normal situations, the baroreceptors will sense the change in pressure and send signals to the central nervous system.

"With the stiffening of the wall that follows ageing, these sensors become less able to send signals that reflect the actual blood pressure. Our mathematical model predicts the quantitative effects of this process on blood pressure," said Pettersen according to the Financial Express.

Stig W. Omholt of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, who was the senior investigator of the research project, added, "If our hypothesis is proven right, arterial stiffness and baroreceptor signaling will become hotspot targets for the treatment of high blood pressure and the development of new medicines and medical devices."

The study was published in PLOS Computational Biology.

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