Hypertension Treatment

A Brief History of Hypertension

The concept of hypertension as it is known today has witnessed a series of theories and discoveries, all aimed at uncovering the mystery surrounding this medical problem. It may be helpful to cast a glance at the ancient history of high blood pressure to see the development of the various theories over the centuries.

For many centuries, the mechanism of blood circulation was a mystery to the Europeans. They believed that blood recedes from the liver and flows to other organs of the human body. They assumed the air goes straight to the heart from where it gets distributed to other parts of the body, through a network of arteries.

But, unlike the Europeans, the Chinese were well aware that the blood flows continuously, without stopping.

Till about 16th century, people believed that the air enters the heart from the lungs through the pulmonary vein. In the 16th century, Leonardo Da Vinci proved this theory wrong. He illustrated, through numerous diagrams, the anatomical structure of the coronary blood vessels and the valves of the heart.

Towards the end of 16th century, two Italian scientists put forth the idea that blood circulates continuously in the human body. Realdo Colombo discussed in detail the flow of blood from the right ventricle to the lungs, via the pulmonary artery. He showed that subsequent to the flow of blood from the right ventricle, the oxygenated blood received from the lungs flows to the left side of the heart.

Cesalpino demonstrated that blood flows from the left side of the heart to the other organs of the body, through a network of arteries. From the other parts of the body, the blood is returned to the right side of the heart through the veins. Reverend Stephen Hales was the first to observe blood pressure in animals in the 18th century.

By the 19th century, knowledge about blood pressure regulation had grown significantly. Claude Bernard, a French scientist, discovered the existence of vascular nerves and reasoned out their role in controlling the diameter of the blood vessels.

Richard Bright made a great contribution by establishing a co-relation between high blood pressure and kidney disease. Sir William Gowers highlighted the link between contractions of the arterioles of the retina and increased arterial blood pressure.

In the 20th century, McLeod described the main factors controlling blood pressure. In 1950s, life insurance companies observed that persons suffering from high blood pressure died earlier than those with lower blood pressure levels. Thus, a link was established between high blood pressure and mortality rate.
The Framingham study has made an important contribution to the ancient history of high blood pressure. It has shown that high blood pressure can cause heart failure, renal disease, kidney damage, cerebral hemorrhage, and organ damage.

Hypertension, as it is understood today, in terms of its causes, symptoms, side effects and treatment owes a great deal to its evolution as a medical concept in the ancient history of high blood pressure. The various studies and research undertaken from time to time have helped to shed valuable light in understanding its causes and determining the cure.

It is needless to say that this knowledge has helped save many lives.