Researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have potentially found a new way to combat hypertension by discovering how blood pressure is controlled.
What is hypertension?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has noticeable symptoms. However, if it is left untreated, your risk of serious problems, such as heart attack and stroke, is increased.
Persistently high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as heart disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, peripheral arterial disease, aortic aneurysm, kidney disease, and vascular dementia.
The only way to find out if your blood pressure is too high is to have your blood pressure checked. Blood pressure is recorded using two numbers. The systolic pressure (upper number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body. The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to blood flow in the blood vessels. They are both measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
You can test your blood pressure at home using a blood pressure monitoring device, and your physician can also test this for you. In general, the guidelines for blood pressure are:
|Blood Pressure Category||Systolic mm Hg (upper number)||Diastolic mm Hg (lower number)|
|NORMAL||Less than 120||and||Less than 80|
|ELEVATED||120 – 129||and||Less than 80|
|HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE Stage 1 Hypertension||130 – 139||or||80 – 89|
|HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE Stage 2 Hypertension||140 or higher||or||90 or higher|
|HYPERTENSIVE CRISIS Consult your doctor||Higher than 180||and/or||Higher than 120|
Generally, patients with Stage 1 hypertension are mostly recommended to make lifestyle changes to reduce their risks, but those with Stage 2 hypertension or higher normally have to take anti-hypertensive medicines to keep their blood pressure under control. This new research could potentially lead to better ways of managing high blood pressure.Hypertension is a very common condition worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that high blood pressure causes 7.5 million deaths globally; this is over 12 percent of all deaths.
A new way to combat hypertension
A new study published in the journal Circulation showed that the protein galectin-1 influences the function of another protein known as the L-type (Cav1.2) calcium channel . The L-type Cav1.2 calcium channel is found throughout the animal kingdom and is critical for CNS function, cardiac and smooth muscle contractility, neuroendocrine regulation, and many other processes.
In the arteries, the L-type Cav1.2 calcium channel causes the blood vessels to contract, and by lowering the activity of this calcium channel, the researchers showed that galectin-1 can reduce blood pressure. Given that hypertension leads to the development of other diseases, preventing it has the potential to halt or delay the development of many diseases at once.
Traditionally, calcium channel blockers (CCBs) are used to treat hypertension, but the problem with these is they can have serious side effects. Such medications can increase the risk of heart failure in people with hypertension, as they totally shut down the calcium channel. This makes the discovery here very important, because having a drug that can adjust the activity of the L-type (CaV1.2) calcium channel, not just shutting it down totally and preventing normal function, could prove to be a solution to hypertension.
There is more good news: Galectin-1 only targets the L-type (CaV1.2) calcium channel in blood vessels, meaning that it does not interfere with other calcium channels elsewhere in the other tissues of the body and so does not disrupt their function. The researchers believe that this signifies minimal side effects.
Ways to better control hypertension are certainly welcome, and while this does not address the age-related damage that causes blood pressure to rise in the first place, it is a potentially better solution than CCBs.
 Hu, Z., Li, G., Wang, J. W., Chong, S. Y., Yu, D., Wang, X., … & Colecraft, H. M. (2018). Regulation of Blood Pressure by Targeting CaV1. 2-Galectin-1 Protein Interaction. Circulation, CIRCULATIONAHA-117.