British researchers using state-of-the-art x-ray technology have identified the primary reason blood pressure elevates in the first place. A key regulatory protein that regulates blood pressure, angiotensinogen, is damaged or oxidized by free radicals. This leads to a chain of events that are the source of the elevation of blood pressure. The significance of this discovery to human health and cardiovascular disease cannot be understated.
Previously scientists believed that angiotensinogen was little more than a passive player in the blood pressure game. It is acted on by renin, in turn releasing angiotensin, a potent signal that causes vascular constriction. Of course, angiotensin activity is normal for the “push” aspect of blood pressure. However, when there is too much then blood pressure elevates.
The researchers made their discovery while trying to understand how high blood pressure happens during pregnancy. This condition is called preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous problem for both mother and fetus. They found that as oxidative stress increased in the placenta then it changed the shape of the angiotensinogen molecule so that renin was abnormally “turned loose,” causing excess production of angiotensin and thus blood pressure. While this discovery was made relating to pregnancy the mechanism is relevant to all increases in blood pressure.
This is the first blood pressure discovery that defines the actual molecular-level cause of why blood pressure goes up in the first place.
It means that all elevations in blood pressure are due to a lack of antioxidant function that results in compromised angiotensinogen. In the simple case this means that at the first signs of elevating blood pressure antioxidants should be increased. It also means that boosting antioxidant intake will help resolve any blood pressure problem.
However, antioxidant intake alone is not a silver bullet, as various processes may be generating so many free radicals that the processes themselves must be changed. For example, stress, being overweight, and insulin resistance all generate massive amounts of free radicals. These factors are literally “punching” angiotensinogen in the nose. It will be necessary to correct these trends so as to lower the amount of free radical damage – as well as replenishing and boosting antioxidant nutrient intake.
All blood pressure medications are directed at “solving” this problem at later stages, such as blocking the effects of excessive angiotensin. This is the first time that a clearly defined source of the problem has actually been identified. It means that elevated blood pressure always means too much free radical damage either caused by a deficiency of antioxidants and/or an unhealthy process that is inducing free radical damage.
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