A recent study found that gut health is linked to high blood pressure and depression after identifying key differences in gut bacterial patterns among individuals with the conditions and healthy individuals.
The preliminary study presented at the American Heart Association‘s Hypertension Scientific Sessions also found that high blood pressure might take different forms – one that is accompanied by depression and one that is not.
“In the future, health professionals may target your gut in order to prevent, diagnose and selectively treat different forms of high blood pressure,” said Bruce R. Stevens, lead author of the study and professor of physiology & functional genomics, medicine and psychiatry at the University of Florida College of Medicine.
Different forms of hypertension according to gut bacteria
Previous studies uncovered the link between gut bacteria and several diseases such as high blood pressure and depression. A study published in the journal Microbiome found that people with hypertension and prehypertension have a less diverse gut microbiome than people without the disease. On the other hand, a study published in the journal Nature Microbiology found that specific groups of microorganisms can impact mental health.
What experts are trying to figure out presently is how depression and hypertension can at times be interrelated. According to one hypothesis, hypertension may be a “mosaic of diseases” rather than a single entity.
In the current study, researchers investigated the relationship between the two diseases and how gut bacteria get into the mix. They approached their study by considering the human body as a “meta-organism.”
“People are ‘meta-organisms’ made up of roughly equal numbers of human cells and bacteria. Gut bacteria ecology interacts with our bodily physiology and brains, which may steer some people towards developing high blood pressure and depression,” explained Stevens.
The researchers isolated DNA from gut bacteria taken from adults who had hypertension, depression or both, as well as from healthy people. Through DNA analysis, they found that each group of participants displayed distinct types of bacterial genes and signature molecules.
This discovery led the team to posit different forms of hypertension. “Depressive hypertension” corresponds to people with both high blood pressure and depression, while “non-depressive hypertension” corresponds to people with high blood pressure but no depression. Furthermore, the researchers posited the existence of a “non-hypertensive depression.”
Treating hypertension by targeting gut bacteria
Because of the different bacterial profiles, the team believes that targeting the gut bacteria offers a potential treatment of hypertension.
This is significant because hypertension is a highly prevalent disease. According to the Centers for Diseases and Control Prevention, about 45% of American adults have high blood pressure while only one out of four adults have the condition under control. Moreover, it is estimated that 20% of patients do not respond well to treatment even with multiple medications. (Related: Hypertension drugs for low-risk patients raise problems, lower blood pressure naturally.)
The findings of the study unlock potential alternatives for such patients who are resistant to current medical treatment. According to Dr. Carl J. Pepine, who collaborated with the researchers on the study, alternative treatment could take the form of implanting selected or modified gut bacteria from a healthy person into a patient with depressive hypertension.
“We can use the bacteria or their metabolites to create a ‘signature’ to better diagnose, classify and manage such patients, which at present can be challenging,” he explains.
Learn more about the relationship between hypertension and depression at Beatdepression.news.