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Can Inflammation Cause High Blood Pressure?

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Highlights

Healthcare providers check our blood pressure practically every time we visit them. We’re used to this measurement, and most of us find our numbers common knowledge. What’s less common knowledge is why our blood pressure may be unhealthy and whether or not inflammation could be the culprit.

Inflammation is a catchphrase that is more complex than swelling or irritation. When our bodies’ inflammatory response goes haywire, it can trigger the onset of diseases and negative health conditions.

Researchers have long hypothesized that inflammation could be an underlying cause of high blood pressure. Together, we’ll talk about inflammation, look at the current research, and discuss the link between hypertension and chronic, low-level inflammation.

What Should I Know About Inflammation?

The word inflammation is a blanket term that describes your body’s natural immune response to a stimulus. When things work perfectly, the stimulus is an invader or injury that needs attention. Viruses, bacteria, toxins, scrapes, or breaks all require your body to release inflammatory cells (like white blood cells) and cytokines. Cytokines are proteins that stimulate the release of additional inflammatory cells.

The inflammatory cells and cytokines seek and destroy the invading bacteria or work to heal an injury. Once the job is done, they retreat.

The problem with inflammation is when it doesn’t work properly. Sometimes, due to disease, aging, or lifestyle habits, inflammation can hang around longer than it should. It can even show up when it isn’t even needed.

Are There Different Types of Inflammation?

There are a few different types of inflammation we can experience in the body.

  1. Acute. Acute inflammation is the type of inflammation that happens when you are sick with a cold or sustain an injury like a scrape or broken bone. Inflammatory cells are released to destroy bacteria or help heal a wound.
  2. Chronic. Chronic inflammation is inflammation that lasts longer. This type of inflammation can start as acute inflammation, but when the immediate threat to your body is gone, inflammatory cells and cytokines are still being released.

Chronic inflammation can be caused by different underlying issues, and we can loosely separate these causes into two categories: chronic inflammation caused by an autoimmune disease and chronic inflammation brought on by lifestyle habits.

  • Autoimmune chronic inflammation. When your body’s immune system incorrectly assesses your body’s tissues as a threat, it will release inflammatory cells and cytokines and attack those tissues. Conditions like lupus, type I diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis are examples of autoimmune disorders that lead to chronic inflammation.
  • Lifestyle-induced chronic inflammation. This type of chronic inflammation is set into motion by poor lifestyle habits that cause the body to release inflammatory cells and cytokines. These can include excessive drinking, smoking, chronic high-level stress, and excess weight.

The causes of inflammation can help us understand how it relates to blood pressure, and how one can influence the other.

What Is Blood Pressure and Why Does It Matter?

Blood pressure is the measure of how hard your blood is pressing against the walls of your arteries. There are two different blood pressure numbers, and they each describe a particular part of the blood-pumping process.

  • Systolic. This measure is the first number of your blood pressure reading and the higher of the two measurements. It measures how hard your blood presses against your arteries when your heart beats.
  • Diastolic. The second number in your blood pressure reading is lower and measures how hard the blood presses against your arteries between the beats of your heart.

General guidelines suggest that for blood pressure to be considered healthy, your systolic reading should be less than 120, and your diastolic reading should be less than 80.

Hypertension and Why It Matters

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, places excess strain on the heart and arteries. This strain dramatically increases your risk of developing heart disease and places you at a much higher risk of heart attack or stroke.

If you have a blood pressure reading of 140/90 or higher, you will likely be diagnosed with high blood pressure. Understanding what contributes to high blood pressure can help you learn to manage your blood pressure and keep it within a healthy range.

How Does Inflammation Affect Blood Pressure?

The link between inflammation and hypertension is well documented, and researchers are exploring a “which came first?” scenario.

Although people who already have high blood pressure also have higher blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), newer studies are exploring whether or not inflammation precedes hypertension. CRP is generally a good indicator of inflammation in the body.

What Science Says

To determine if inflammation came first, researchers measured blood levels of CRP in apparently healthy people who did not have high blood pressure. When participants in the studies developed high blood pressure, their CRP markers were measured again.

The results showed that participants who developed high blood pressure all started with higher blood circulating levels of CRP.

What It Means

The link between inflammation that leads to high blood pressure needs more research, but researchers hypothesize that some of the conditions included in metabolic syndrome could be an underlying cause.

Metabolic syndrome is the name for a cluster of diseases and conditions associated with higher blood levels of C-reactive protein. The conditions that make up metabolic syndrome are excess weight (especially in the mid-section), high cholesterol, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure.

  • Excess weight. This is a risk factor for developing high blood pressure, likely because excess weight can stimulate the release of cytokines from fat cells. Increased cytokines may produce more inflammatory cells and elevate blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol. Unhealthy cholesterol levels damage the artery walls, which can elicit an inflammatory response from the cells. If high cholesterol goes untreated, the person may develop low-level chronic inflammation.
  • Insulin resistance and diabetes. Insulin resistance stimulates cytokine release in adipose tissue and can also affect arterial health. Both of these conditions can create an inflammatory response in the body that may lead to chronic, low-level inflammation.

Metabolic syndrome may lead to inflammation that causes high blood pressure, but for many Americans, the diseases and health markers that make up metabolic syndrome can seem unavoidable — especially as we get older. As we look for a solution, we have to start with our cells.

What’s Happening on the Cellular Level?

Cells are the foundation of every organ and system in our body. When something goes wrong inside our cells, there’s a domino effect that can lead to some pretty significant health issues, like metabolic syndrome and other age-related illnesses.

Our metabolic health starts in our cells. Cellular respiration causes cells to create energy to power their cellular functions. Cellular functions ensure that your tissues, organs, and systems have energy and function properly to power your body and keep you healthy.

As we age, our metabolic health begins to break down, starting on the cellular level. The mitochondria in our cells responsible for creating cellular energy become sluggish. Our cell membranes weaken, leaving our cells susceptible to external stress. Our cells stop communicating with one another efficiently (cellular signaling) and even die (cellular apoptosis) before they should.

This decline in cellular health can lead to a myriad of negative health markers. Thus, a focus on our cellular health is necessary in order to support our overall health.

Elevate your cells. Elevate your self.

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  • Better cardiometabolic health. By activating special receptors known as PPARs that regulate activities like mood, sleep, and even appetite, C15:0 can help support healthy cholesterol levels, healthy blood pressure and promote your heart health.

Our cells age, but C15:0 can help our cells stay healthier for longer.*

Where Can You Find C15:0?

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Sources:

Inflammation: What Is It, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic

All about inflammation | Harvard Health

High Blood Pressure Symptoms and Causes | CDC

High Blood Pressure Linked to Inflammation | Winchester Hospital

Insulin resistance causes inflammation in adipose tissue | PMC

C-Reactive Protein, the Metabolic Syndrome, and Prediction of Cardiovascular Events in the Framingham Offspring Study | AHA Journals

Profile photo for Eric Venn-Watson

Eric Venn-Watson M.D.

Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.

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