Our successes with high blood pressure research

Ground breaking discoveries

High blood pressure increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. In the early 1950s, high blood pressure was treated with medication that had nasty side effects, such as a tendency to faint. But in the 1960s, beta blockers were developed and over the next two decades, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors became standard treatment to help treat people with high blood pressure.

Treating high blood pressure in the elderly

High blood pressure affects three quarters of people over 80, and many people don’t know they have it. Doctors were concerned that using medicines to reduce high blood pressure in elderly people might be harmful, for example causing dizzy spells and falls. 

In 2007 the results of the trial were analysed. The study found that blood pressure lowering medication significantly reduced the risk of dying from any cause in elderly patients. As soon as this came to light, the trial was stopped and all participants were offered blood pressure treatment.

Because of this ground-breaking trial, guidelines for doctors have changed to recommend that elderly patients (if they are generally well) with sustained high blood pressure should be offered blood pressure lowering medication.

Reducing the pressure

Professor Ajay Shah and his team at King's College London have done important research into nitric oxide - a molecule that controls blood pressure. Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to dilate, which lowers your blood pressure and increases blood flow around the body.

Nitric oxide is produced by the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels. It is also produced by nerves that supply blood vessels. But until Professor Shah’s study, scientists thought that only the endothelial cell nitric oxide is involved in blood pressure control, not the nerve form.

Professor Shah’s team treated healthy volunteers with a drug that blocked the nerves from producing nitric oxide. They found that reducing the production of nitric oxide from nerves led to an increase in blood pressure.

The research team think that their discovery could lead to a new treatment that boosts the production of this alternative form of nitric oxide to lower blood pressure. Further studies are being carried out, but we need your donations to fund this life saving research.

Read more about our high blood pressure research