lungs with a blood pressure gauge and hand pump

Potential Links Between Hypertension And Asthma

I have dealt with asthma my entire life and also have high blood pressure. Of course, these are two different diseases with different treatment strategies, but still, I was wondering if there are potential links between the two. Here is what I learned.

What is high blood pressure?

Hypertension is a medical term for high blood pressure. It is a measure of the two pressures inside your arteries.

Your heart is a muscle. When the heart muscle is relaxed it is called diastole.1 During this time blood enters your heart. When your heart contracts it is called systole which is when blood is pushed through all the arteries of your body. This is how oxygen and other nutrients travel to all the tissues of your body.1 This gives us two blood pressures.1,2

  • Systolic. The pressure during systole. Normal is 120
  • Diastolic. The pressure during diastole. Normal is 80

So, a normal blood pressure varies with age, although is generally considered 120/80. When your blood pressure is consistently higher than 130/80 you are considered to have high blood pressure.1 This higher pressure puts extra strain on the walls of your arteries. This puts you at risk for coronary artery disease, heart attacks, and strokes.

Maintaining blood pressure less than 130/90 can significantly reduce your risk for cardiovascular complications.1-3 This can be accomplished through lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise. It can also be accomplished with medicine to lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of complications.1-3

Links between asthma and high blood pressure

Apparently, I am not the lone asthmatic with high blood pressure. A whopping 41% of people who completed our annual Asthma In America survey said they also have hypertension.

Various studies have also confirmed a link between these two diseases. They show an increased prevalence of high blood pressure in the asthma community. People with severe asthma (or lower lung functions) had higher rates of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.3,4 They also show that asthmatics with high blood pressure are more likely to have severe asthma.3,4

Research theories

No one knows if there are actual links between these two diseases. It’s possible the link is merely coincidental. However, because of the elevated hypertension rate among asthmatics, researchers have looked into potential links. They have even pondered theories, such as:

  • Medicine. Medicines used to treat one disease may contribute to the other. Corticosteroids used to treat asthma may cause high blood pressure.3,4 Also, beta-blockers used to treat high blood pressure may contribute to asthma. So, is it possible asthma or COPD medicines explain the link?
  • Similar risk factors. Both conditions do have similar risk factors. For instance, stress is known as a potential asthma trigger. It’s also a potential cause of hypertension. Cigarette smoke is known as a potential trigger and cause of asthma. It is also a potential risk factor for hypertension.3,4
    So, is the link explained by the fact they share similar risk factors?
  • Other disorders. Obesity is a risk factor for both conditions.3,4 So, is obesity a potential link between the two diseases?
  • Shared genetics. Researchers have identified 10 genes linked to both asthma and high blood pressure.3,4 Is it possible that these shared genes are the link?

Researchers continue looking into all of these potential links. Although, the ones they are leaning towards are drug side effects and genetics. Still, much more research needs to be done before they come to any definitive conclusions.

What to make of this?

Much more research needs to be done on this subject. One objective of such research is to learn more about high blood pressure and asthma. A second objective is to find better strategies for treating both conditions. A third objective may involve developing strategies for screening asthmatics for hypertension and vice versa.

Poll

Do you have asthma and high blood pressure?

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