Researchers at Australia’s Monash University have discovered a major cause of blood pressure.
If they are right, it could lead to a brand new type of treatment.
The explanation is particularly surprising, as the system that causes it is precisely the one that is supposed to keep us healthy.
Researchers at the university discovered that high blood pressure might be just another autoimmune disease, which would be a case where your white blood cells (immune fighters) mistake your healthy cells for invaders.
They caused high blood pressure in mice by stimulating certain types of B cells in their immune systems, before bringing their blood pressure down by inhibiting those same B cells.
To build an even stronger case, they bred mice that had very low levels of that type of B cell. Even when these mice were subjected to the kind of lifestyle that normally brings about high blood pressure, their blood pressure did not rise nearly as high as the normal mice with the same lifestyle.
What is going on here? Are active immune cells not supposed to ensure great health?
This is true in most cases. However, the stimuli that cause hypertension, like stress, make these B cells too active in a situation where there are no foreign organisms to attack. They then produce excessive numbers of antibodies that would attack your arteries.
The research team found great numbers of these antibodies inside the walls of the mice’s arteries, leading to an inflammatory response that hardened and stiffened those arteries. This increased their blood pressure because their arteries were no longer flexible enough to respond properly to blood flow.
This discovery is important, as it would suggest that potential treatments could focus on blocking the activity of the B cells that produce antibodies in a situation where threatening foreign organisms are absent. Drugs that do this are already prescribed for people with rheumatoid arthritis, which is caused by a similar B cell overreaction.
This does not free us from the responsibility of adopting a healthy lifestyle to prevent high blood pressure, of course. The treatment that blocks the B cells would likely consist of a synthetic drug with its own side effects and toxicity. Some experts have already warned that the universal blocking of types of B cells would be too crude a solution for autoimmune diseases. They are essential immune cells, after all.
It’s also a fact that many lifestyle factors can trigger the aggression of these immune cells. Thus, by managing those factors, we can heal our autoimmune diseases naturally.
One of the biggest factors that trigger this would stress. Any kind of stress – be it physical, mental, emotional, or sensory – can trigger this type of response.