New research suggests that the hormone insulin plays a primary role in raising blood pressure and therefore food and medications which cause higher insulin levels may be key root factors in high blood pressure.
Whilst a lot is already known about high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, there is still a lot that we do not know. The body is a hugely complicated living system and despite decades of previous research on the subject, we are continuing to find new aspects to learn about.
The research itself, carried out at the Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, focused on identifying which genes are associated with high blood pressure. The research team found over 200 genes that played a role and conducted further analysis to delve into which genes and factors would be most prominent.
A stand out finding from the analysis was that genes involved with metabolic diseases and notably those involved with insulin, were central to the network of genes involved in blood pressure.
The findings suggest that insulin plays a key role in whether blood pressure is healthy or high. This is not the first study to link increased insulin levels with high blood pressure, however, the study provides genetic reasons for why the link may exist.
If insulin is a key factor in high blood pressure, the next question is, what causes high insulin levels? This question was not addressed by the study; however, we already have good evidence about which factors in life raise insulin levels.
We know that lifestyle factors play a part. A diet high in carbohydrate and particularly if high in sugar, is known to increase insulin levels. This is even more likely to be true within those of us that do an average amount of physical activity or less.
Another factor that can directly raise insulin levels is certain medication. People with type 2 diabetes that take insulin, and also people with type 1 diabetes that are taking a lot of insulin each day, are going to have higher than normal insulin levels, which could lead to high blood pressure.
Other medications that raise insulin levels significantly are the sulfonylurea and glinides classes of medications. These drugs are designed to stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin. In people with type 2 diabetes, this can lad to higher than normal insulin levels in the body which may result in higher blood pressure.