Indexed on: 01 Mar '08Published on: 01 Mar '08Published in: Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology
1. Obesity is an important risk factor for hypertension and its incidence is increasing around the world. 2. The mechanisms underlying obesity-related hypertension include sympathetic activation, altered vascular responses, hormonal changes, enhanced inflammatory markers and structural changes. 3. This review summarizes recent evidence of the underlying impact of obesity on blood pressure. A number of candidate mechanisms include increased sympathetic activity, activation of the renin-angiotensin system, altered vasoconstrictor or dilator responses and the attendant systemic inflammatory state. 4. While adult lifestyle factors undoubtedly contribute to the incidence of obesity and its attendant hypertension, evidence suggests that the programming of obesity may occur following over-nutrition during development. A growing body of evidence links maternal obesity, offspring obesity and hypertension. 5. Finally, epigenetic modification of genes relevant to hypertension may contribute to the development of hypertension following a suboptimal intrauterine environment. To date the cardiovascular effects of early nutritional changes have been largely investigated following maternal under-nutrition or protein restriction; further work is necessary to determine the impact of maternal obesity.