(November 30, 2000, Gazette)
Preventing High Blood Pressure
Dr. Sudesh Vasdev
For the past 20 years, Dr. Sudesh Vasdev, Faculty of Medicine,
has been researching high blood pressure, or hypertension. It's
a disease that affects more than 24 million people in North America,
and puts these people at greater risk of strokes, heart disease
and kidney failure.
"In 90 per cent of people with hypertension, we don't know
the cause so I've been looking at why it develops,"
explained Dr. Vasdev. What he has found is that most people with
high blood pressure can't metabolize sugar properly.
"In some ways diabetics and hypertensives are very similar
because they have problems with sugar metabolism," he said.
The solution to this is reasonably simple, but requires a change
in diet and exercise. "People with high blood pressure need
to eat less sugar and more complex carbohydrates, exercise every
day, and take a good multi-vitamin."
The big three factors in high blood pressure in humans are obesity,
high alcohol consumption and high salt intake. With animal models,
Dr. Vasdev has shown that daily low intake of alcohol or dietary
supplementation with the amino acid cysteine, Vitamin B6 or lipoic
acid can normalize high blood pressure. Recently, he has also
found that Vitamin C is effective in animal models in controlling
Dr. Vasdev's research, which has been supported by the Medical
Research Council of Canada for 20 years, has been significant
in identifying the role of endogenous aldehydes in hypertension.
Aldehydes are a group of highly reactive compounds normally formed
in human and animal tissues in very low amounts. Under normal
conditions, tissue aldehyde levels are maintained at a low level.
But Dr. Vasdev has shown that in hypertensive humans and rats
there is impaired sugar metabolism with a variety of accompanying
physiological changes, including an increase in tissue aldehydes.
Aldehydes affect calcium channels in blood vessels, making them
contract more readily causing higher pressure in these blood
vessels. Dr. Vasdev has proposed a unique and unifying hypothesis:
excess endogenous aldehydes are the cause of essential hypertension.
"Taking supplements such as Vitamin B6, lipoic acid or Vitamin
C increases the body's level of aldehyde binding compounds and
can prevent hypertension. This nutritional approach to prevent
high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and kidney damage,
would have minimal side effects and be very cost effective."
Over the years, Dr. Vasdev has worked with many collaborators,
particularly Linda Longerich, Community Health, and Dr. Sushil