Purpose of review: In this review we summarize the recent evidence that highlights the involvement of low-grade inflammation in the development and pathophysiology of hypertension.
Recent findings: Essential hypertension is characterized by increased peripheral vascular resistance to blood flow, due in large part to vascular remodeling. Vascular changes in hypertension are associated with mechanical and humoral factors that modulate signaling events, resulting in abnormal function, media growth, extracellular matrix deposition and inflammation. Recent evidence suggests that inflammation is present in the vasculature in animal models of hypertension. Inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein, are associated with vascular lesions in humans, and are predictive of cardiovascular outcome. In animal and human studies, pro-inflammatory components of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system have been demonstrated in large conduit and small arteries in the kidney and heart. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor activators are drugs with metabolic properties that have been demonstrated to exert anti-inflammatory effects on the vasculature, and there is now evidence that these actions may be protective for blood vessels.
Summary: Inflammatory processes are important participants in the pathophysiology of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The identification of the mechanisms leading to the activation of inflammation should contribute to the development of specific therapeutic approaches to apply in hypertension and its complications.