High blood pressure with depression may be a ‘new disease’

High blood pressure with depression may be a ‘new disease’ triggered by gut bacteria, study suggests

  • Stool samples were collected from volunteers with just hypertension, just depression, hypertension with depression, and healthy subjects
  • Unique patterns of gut bacteria were found among each of the groups 
  • Researchers say high blood pressure with depression could be a different disease altogether than high blood pressure without depression
  • The team adds that it could explain why 20% of people don’t respond to treatment with traditional medications 

The link between high blood pressure and depression may be in the gut, a new study suggests. 

Researchers found differences in intestinal bacteria in people with high blood pressure compared to those with hypertension plus depression.

They believe high blood pressure with depression may be a ‘new disease’ and it could explain why 20 percent of people with hypertension don’t respond well to treatment, even with multiple medications.

The team, from the University of Florida College of Medicine, says the findings could, in the future, lead to doctors potentially preventing and diagnosing  different forms of high blood pressure by analyzing the gut. 

A new study from the University of Florida College of Medicine says that hypertension with depression may be a completely different disease than hypertension without depression (file image) 

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is when the force of the blood flowing through the blood vessels is always high.

It is estimated that one in three US adults, the equivalent of 75 million Americans, have high blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart attacks, kidney disease and strokes.

Hypertension is known as a ‘silent killer’ because most Americans with the condition do not know they have it.

It is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is the number one killer in every country including the US.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 54 percent of patients have their high blood pressure under control from medication, exercise, diet or a combination. 

For the study, the team recruited 105 volunteers who were split into four groups: hypertension and depression; hypertension without depression; depression and healthy blood pressure; and people without depression or hypertension.

All of the participants provided stool samples, and the researchers isolated DNA from gut bacteria in those samples. 

Unexpectedly, researchers found unique patterns of bacteria in each of the four groups.

‘Gut bacteria ecology interacts with our bodily physiology and brains, which may steer some people towards developing high blood pressure and depression,’ said lead author Dr Bruce Stevens, professor in the department of physiology & functional genomics at the University of Florida College of Medicine. 

‘In the future, health professionals may target your gut in order to prevent, diagnose and selectively treat different forms of high blood pressure.’ 

He said the research, and future studies, could lead to therapies that target the gut and help treat people with treatment-resistant high blood pressure. 

‘We believe we have uncovered new forms of high blood pressure,’ Dr Steven said.

‘[This includes] Depressive Hypertension (high blood pressure with depression), which may be a completely different disease than Non-Depressive Hypertension (high blood pressure without depression).’ 

 The research will be presented at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions in CITY on Thursday, September 5. 

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