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Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the most common chronic disease in America.  People with hypertension are at risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney damage. Did you know that there is a connection between hypertension and autoimmune disease?  Were you aware there are over 400 different causal factors in hypertension? 

Autoimmunity is when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. The immune system is supposed to protect the body from infection and disease, but sometimes it breaks down and targets our own tissues.

Studies have shown that people with autoimmune diseases are more likely to develop hypertension, and vice versa. One study found that people with the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common type of lupus, were twice as likely to have hypertension than the general population. In fact, hypertension may even be autoimmune in itself. In this blog post, we will discuss the link between these two conditions and how our functional medicine approach can address them.

T Cells

T cells are a type of immune cell that helps the body fight infection. There are different types of T cells, including helper T cells and killer T cells. Helper T cells give instructions to other immune cells, and killer T cells kill infected or cancerous cells. Some T cells, called regulatory T cells or T-reg cells, help to keep the immune system in check. They are known as the “police” of the immune system. 

Autoimmunity occurs when T-reg cells don’t work properly and other T cells become dysregulated. This can happen because of genetics, infections, exposure to certain chemicals or drugs, or hypertension. As a result, the immune system starts attacking healthy cells instead of fighting off infection. Autoimmunity can lead to a number of different diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, and multiple sclerosis (MS).

T Cells and Hypertension

T cells are a normal part of the immune system, but they can cause serious problems if they become overactive, as they do in autoimmune disease. T cells can cause high blood pressure, or hypertension. Hypertension is when the force of blood against the walls of blood vessels is too high. There is a bit of a vicious cycle because when hypertension damages the blood vessels, T cells are attracted to the area and cause inflammation. This can lead to further damage and make hypertension worse. 

Oxidative stress, which can be caused by T cells, is another factor that can contribute to hypertension. This happens when there are too many free radicals in the body. Free radicals are molecules that can damage cells, and they are naturally created by T cells but can be worsened by things like smoking, pollution, and UV radiation from the sun. When oxidative stress happens, it can damage the arteries and make hypertension worse. Read more about how dysregulated T cells cause oxidative stress here.

Hypertension Leads to Autoimmunity

For many years, hypertension was thought to be caused by lifestyle choices or genetics. However, recent research about how dysregulated T cells lead to high blood pressure has shown that in some cases, hypertension may be an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy blood vessels.

Essentially, since hypertension can lead to immune dysfunction, it can also lead to autoimmunity.

This research is still in its early stages, but it is hope for a better understanding of how to manage hypertension. This new information could lead to treatments that are more effective and have fewer side effects, as current blood pressure medications can lead to a variety of complications.

Other Triggers for Hypertension

DNA and Caffeine

Our risks for hypertension can be evaluated by looking at our DNA. An SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) is a variation in a single nucleotide – the building blocks of DNA – that occurs at a specific position in the genome. SNP information can be used to understand how different people respond to caffeine, a substance that can increase blood pressure and cause hypertension.

For example, people with certain SNP variants may metabolize caffeine more slowly, which could lead to higher levels of caffeine in the blood and increased risk of hypertension. On the other hand, people with other SNP variants may metabolize caffeine more quickly, which could lead to lower levels of caffeine in the blood and reduced risk of hypertension. Therefore, SNP information can be used to understand how different people respond to caffeine and help to predict risks for certain health conditions.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that can lead to high blood pressure. When you have sleep apnea, your breathing stops and starts repeatedly during the night. This means that your body isn’t getting enough oxygen, which can put strain on your heart and other organs. Over time, this can lead to high blood pressure.

The Functional Medicine Approach

Autoimmune diseases are caused by a combination of genetics, leaky gut, and environmental triggers. While there is no cure for these conditions, research has shown that functional medicine can be an effective way to manage them. Functional medicine is a holistic approach that focuses on identifying and treating the root cause of disease. This approach involves using natural methods, such as diet, supplementation, and lifestyle changes to promote healing. 

At Dr. Autoimmune, we focus on addressing the root cause of your condition and developing a custom plan with you to help you reach your health goals. If you are ready to be brave and take the Dr. Autoimmune challenge, click the “Start Your Journey” button at the bottom of this page.

Ian really knows A LOT about thyroid problems! His knowledge and confidence convinced me to make the lifestyle changes -including no gluten, no sugar, and more exercise-that are essential to healing hormonal imbalances and to staying well. Several months later, I feel stronger, more energetic, and am happier than I have felt in a long time. Many thanks for all your help!

- Anonymous

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