Blood Pressure is Skin Deep


We may be taking our skin for granted. Yes, we know it's the largest organ, but other than wanting our skin to look good, it doesn't rank up there with the heart or the brain. But scientists may have discovered an important role the skin plays that we never knew about. Our skin may be helping to regulate blood pressure and heart rate.

That's pretty neat. And it's important because one out of three Americans face high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, which contributes to nearly four-hundred-thousand deaths every year. The reality is outside of obesity and smoking, the cause of a vast majority of hypertension cases is unknown. We know it's connected to reduced blood flow to small blood vessels in parts of the body that are far from the heart including the skin. When tissues like the skin are starved for oxygen, the body reacts by increasing the flow of blood which causes high blood pressure.

This reaction to get more blood is regulated by a family of proteins called HIF which are also found in the skin. To study whether HIF proteins in the skin affect blood flow, researchers created mice missing these proteins. When these mice were exposed to low oxygen, as expected, their blood pressure, heart rate and skin temperature were all negatively affected since their HIF protein did not do the job of increasing blood flow. This goes to show that the skin does regulate blood pressure and heart rate according to the oxygen levels in the blood.

Learning this role that the skin plays might reveal new insights into the causes of hypertension and perhaps lead to new therapies to combat this common ailment. Controlling blood pressure is key to reducing the chances of having a stroke, heart attacks and damage to the circulatory system.

More Information

Skin found to play a role in controlling blood pressure
Skin plays a surprising role in helping regulate blood pressure and heart rate, according to scientists. While this discovery was made in mice, the researchers believe it is likely to be true also in humans...

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