There is a body of growing scientific evidence which does indeed suggest the possibility that a link exists between chronic inflammation and high blood pressure (or Hypertension).
What exactly do we mean by inflammation?
It is important to establish right off the bat that not all inflammation is bad for the body. There is a good reason for the body’s inflammatory reaction, and when an injury or infection occurs the first line of defence is an inflammatory response. This type of inflammation (acute) is essential for repairing the body, and is usually short-lived, disappearing once the healing process has taken place.
It is the other type of inflammatory response – sometimes called chronic, low-grade or systemic – which actually causes the problem. With this type, the body’s immune system goes into a kind of self-destruct mode and powers up an inflammatory response when in fact there is no actual inflammation present. Many auto-immune diseases fall under this category.
So … is there a proven connection between low grade inflammation and hypertension?
Whilst it it true that there has been increasing interest in studying a possible link between chronic inflammation and hypertension in the last 15 years, the results, whilst not yet absolute, definitely suggest that such a link exists. For instance, data which is currently available does indicate a complex and significant interconnection between inflammation and structural changes in arteries which may eventually lead to the future development of high blood pressure and ultimately cardiovascular disease.
An area of particular interest revolves around the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) – as in one study by Niskanen and others, which showed that study subjects with a CRP of greater that 3 mg/l were at an increased risk of developing hypertension as compared to those subjects with a CRP of less than 1mg/l.
It is felt that this relationship between inflammation and blood pressure will benefit from further studies which will target specifically the
“inflammatory mediators in altering mechanisms of vascular tone regulation leading to the onset of high blood pressure.” (Prof P. Pauletto – Dep’t of Clinical and Experimental Medicine. Univ. of Padua, Italy).
In other words, continued study is needed to investigate how inflammatory processes can produce harmful changes in the structure of the body’s vascular system which then lead to blood pressure problems.
Taking on the inflammatory cycle
It seems prudent therefore that those of us who are concerned about maintaining a healthy blood pressure need to also be aware of the potential damage caused by these low grade inflammatory processes going on in our bodies. In our modern day society with all its conveniences and products designed to make living more comfortable, we are surrounded by items which can excite an inflammatory response.
Our fast foods and processed foods are laced with pro-inflammatory ingredients, we breathe in all sorts of enviro-toxins and pollutants (household chemicals and cleaners, air pollutants from vehicle exhausts), there are harmful chemicals in our water, and so on. Obviously we cannot avoid all toxins but we can do some things to minimize our exposure. There are many “green products” on the market nowadays which may be used to replace the less desirable ones. And in the area of one’s diet there are a number of measures which can be taken to reduce the risk to the body.
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
One approach to managing the amount of inflammation in the body is the one which renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine Dr Andrew Weil calls The Anti-inflammatory Food Pyramid.
Below in the video Dr Andrew Weil talks about the importance of and reasons for eating an anti-inflammatory diet:
The old adage “You are what you eat” has never been more relevant, and it seems more and more crucial that we should take a vested interest in monitoring how we fuel our bodies. Becoming better educated about the safety of the foods we are eating (GMO versus Non-GMO), reading food labels and knowing what foods are good for us, and those which aren’t, will help us stay healthier, and lead to longer and happier lives.
And after all who doesn’t want that…?