In 1965 high blood pressure was top of the list of risk factors for heart disease listed by the World Health Organisation. But although it has long been recognised as a problem, it's taken years to find a way of managing the condition.
In the early 1950s high blood pressure was treated with medication that had very undesirable side effects – for example, patients were prone to fainting.
Beta blockers were developed in the 1960s and over the next two decades angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors became standard treatment for people with high blood pressure.
Blood pressure and the brain
High blood pressure can be lowered with lifestyle changes, but in some cases these changes alone are not enough to combat severe high blood pressure. We know that signals in the brain can affect the network of blood vessels that make up our circulatory system, but we're not yet sure how this links to high blood pressure.
We have awarded over £900,000 to Professor Julian Paton at the University of Bristol to study the link between blood pressure and the brain. Critically, the team believes that, as well as signals travelling from the brain to the blood vessels, most organs can send information back to the brain. They are studying the brain to find out more about how the brain controls blood pressure, with the hope that this may help to inform the future development of treatments for those who do not respond to current medication.
BHF Professor Rhian Touyz specialises in researching high blood pressure and is heading up a team of scientists at the University of Glasgow. With their BHF grant her team are researching an enzyme called Nox5 which seems to play a key role in high blood pressure.
By improving our understanding of how Nox5 works, this research could lead to new treatments for people with high blood pressure.
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This research was only possible through generous donations from the public, but there is still lots of work to do in the fight for every heartbeat.