Common condition can accelerate bone ageing

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One of those conditions is high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, according to research from the American Heart Association, the American equivalent of the British Heart Foundation.

Their research suggests that high blood pressure may accelerate ageing of the bones which make up the body’s skeleton; their research has found the inflammation caused by high blood pressure was associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a health condition where bones become weaker, the condition typically affects people in their old age and makes the bones more likely to fracture; it is normally only diagnosed after a bone has broken.

The researchers made their discovery after tests were conducted on mice whom had had hypertension induced and had their results compared with those of mice without hypertension.

During the study the human age equivalent of the mice were 20-30 years old for young mice compared to 47-56 years for older mice.

After six weeks, using microcomputed tomography, the researchers analysed the bones of mice who had had high blood pressure induced and found bone density and strength was weaker in those with high blood pressure.

Overall, the mice with high blood pressure had a 24 percent reduction in bone volume and an 18 percent reduction in the thickness of tissue at the end of the bones.

Meanwhile, they also had a 34 percent reduction in estimated failure force; this is the ability of bones to withstand different types of force.

Lead author Dr Elizabeth Hennen said: “Bone marrow is where both new bone and new immune cells are produced. We suspect that more pro-inflammatory immune cells in the bone marrow may be leading to damage of the bone and making it weaker.

“By understanding how hypertension contributes to osteoporosis, we may be able to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and better protect people later in life from having fragility fractures and a lower quality of life.”

On the results, Dr Hennen added: “Failure force translates into weaker bones. In the spine, bone weakness can lead to vertebral fractures later in life. In these mice, being hypertensive at a younger age essentially aged bones as if they were 15-25 human years older.”

Furthermore, Dr Hennen said that while the study was conducted on mice that there are implications for human patients, adding that they may help researchers identify immune cells and mechanisms that play a role in human bone health.

High blood pressure was found to cause a rise in active immune cells in the body, it is this active immune cells which Dr Hennen said played a role: “This increase in active immune cells tells us that the older mice are more inflamed overall, and that a continued state of inflammation, whether they had high blood pressure or not, may have an impact on bone health.

“It appeared that high blood pressure was adjusting the bone remodelling process toward bone loss, rather than bone gain or bone equilibrium, in the hypertensive young mice. As a result, bones will be weaker, leading to an increased risk for osteoporosis and fragility fracture.”

Dr Henne added: “In humans, this might mean that we should screen for osteoporosis in people with high blood pressure.”

High blood pressure is an incredibly common condition in the UK with around one in three people in the UK experiencing symptoms of hypertension.

One of the main reasons why high blood pressure is dangerous is because it can increase someone’s risk of a range of other health ailments such as:
• Heart disease
• Heart attacks
• Strokes
• Heart failure
• Peripheral arterial disease
• Aortic aneurysms
• Kidney disease
• Vascular dementia.

How is blood pressure measured?

Blood pressure is measured by taking two readings, systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure is the force at which the heart pumps blood around the body. Diastolic blood pressure, on the other hand, is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.

Both of these are measured in millimetres of mercury, represented on a test as mmHg. Ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.

According to the NHS “high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher (or 150/90mmHg or higher if you’re over the age of 80)” and what is considered healthy blood pressure will vary from person to person.

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