High blood pressure

EXTRA INFORMATION

WHAT WE KNOW

Some drugs and an unhealthy lifestyle can also result in hypertension. It is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly (preferably yearly) by your GP as there are no symptoms for hypertension and it can be a risk factor in many diseases such as heart attack, kidney failure or stroke.

Lifestyle changes to improve blood pressure include increasing cardiovascular fitness by undertaking regular physical activity, cessation of smoking, a reduction in alcohol intake, and reducing fat and salt in the diet. Nevertheless, if blood pressure remains high than antihypertensive medications are required to maintain your blood pressure in a healthy range. Your GP will need to monitor your blood pressure regularly because if the dose of your antihypertensive medication is too high your blood pressure will fall, leading to dizziness and fainting on standing.

About Our Research

We study how the brain controls blood pressure. By inserting a fine needle (microelectrode) into a peripheral nerve we can record the spontaneous bursts of muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) that originate in the brain and cause constriction of blood vessels in muscle. High levels of MSNA can lead to hypertension.

By recording MSNA at the same time as performing fMRI of the brain we can identify sites in the brain responsible for generation of MSNA. In a previous NHMRC-funded grant we showed that certain areas of the brain coupled to the production of MSNA increased their activity in people with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA), in which MSNA and blood pressure are greatly elevated. These changes were reversed following 6 months of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP).

Now, in a new NHMRC-funded grant, we are using this same approach to study patients with renovascular hypertension, before and after treatment with renal angioplasty. This will increase our understanding of how sensory signals from the kidneys to the brain can lead to high blood pressure.

 

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