In the third article in my series on H pylori and cardiovascular disease, we’ll cover the link between H pylori and high blood pressure, or hypertension.
If you haven’t read the first two posts in this series, it’ll really help if you read them first.
Please take a few minutes to read them by clicking on the links below.
Once you’ve read the first two posts, you’ll see there’s an association between being infected by H pylori – especially the CagA strain – and cardiovascular disease.
These disorders include insulin resistance, elevated cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
You’ll also see there’s an association between CagA H pylori and heart disease itself.
When I say heart disease I specifically refer to a narrowing of the arteries known as atherosclerosis (which can also happen in the carotid arteries, eventually causing strokes).
In the next few articles, I’d like to explore how H pylori influences some major heart disease (and stroke) risk factors, starting with high blood pressure.
Several studies have shown links between H pylori and high blood pressure.
This is important because high blood pressure is considered to be an independent risk factor for developing heart disease.
I’m keen to point out that whilst there’s definitely an association between H pylori and high blood pressure, I am not saying that H pylori causes high blood pressure in everyone.
Clearly there are other factors involved in high blood pressure that should be considered, such as stress levels, diet, nutrient status, toxins, and so on.
For example, we know for sure that heavy metal toxicity – particularly lead and mercury – can lead to high blood pressure in some people. 1
Furthermore, as with the majority of links between H pylori and cardiovascular disease, it appears that only certain H pylori strains – usually CagA – seem to cause problems.
Let’s begin with a study that was done on rats.
Granted, rats aren’t humans, but they’re used in medical research due to their similarities with humans from a metabolic perspective.
In 2005, researchers carried took 12 rats, infected them with H pylori and compared their progress to 12 rats in a control group that were not infected with H pylori.
Two weeks after infection, 6 rats in each group were sacrificed.
The rest of the rats were sacrificed three weeks after inoculation.
The research team noted the following changes in the H pylori-infected rats after three weeks:
The researchers concluded that:
“Alterations in circulatory dynamics occur in sub-acute H pylori infection. TNF-alpha could be one of the inflammatory mediators responsible for the early cardiovascular changes in H pylori infection.”[Kulaputana, O. et al. Helicobacter pylori Infection-Induced Cardiovascular Changes in Rats. Helicobacter. 2005. European Helicobacter Study Group XVIII International Workshop]
So in the early stages of H pylori infection in rats, various inflammatory and cardiovascular markers – including blood pressure – can be significantly altered.
Let’s look at a study conducted on humans, carried out by researchers in Italy.
Twenty-four H pylori-positive patients without heart disease were examined.
The patients were then treated with standard H pylori eradication therapy (triple therapy).
The team found that arterial elasticity was significantly decreased (indicative of stiffer arteries) and systemic vascular resistance was significantly increased while the patients were infected with H pylori.
The researchers said:
“Our preliminary data indicate a reduction of arterial elasticity and increased systemic vascular resistance during H pylori infection. The presence of subclinical vascular alterations to persistent H pylori positivity status seems to include H pylori in the process of atherosclerosis.”[Sperduti, L. et al. Evaluation of Subclinical Vascular Alterations in Helicobacter pylori-Positive Patients. Helicobacter. 2006. Abstract no.: 06.10 ]
As you can see, H pylori infection seems to have an ability to cause cardiovascular changes long before clinical heart disease is diagnosed.
Reported in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, a study by Gunji et al focused on the relationship between H pylori and metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of metabolic imbalances that include obesity, insulin resistance, type II diabetes and high cholesterol.
It’s an independent risk factor for heart disease.
Among other important findings that I’ll discuss later in this blog series, they found that H pylori infection was significantly associated with raised systolic blood pressure. 4
Next, in a comprehensive study carried out in the Democratic Republic of Congo, having H pylori was also associated with higher blood pressure.
In this study, the higher the levels of H pylori antibodies, the fatter the patients were and the higher their blood pressure.
Three weeks after receiving H pylori treatment, blood pressure had come down in these patients, suggesting that H pylori infection was in some way influencing blood pressure levels.
Again, there were other important findings in this study that I’ll discuss later in this blog series, but regarding H pylori and high blood pressure the researchers said:
“Our study demonstrated a significant decrease in blood pressure values, in particular in diastolic blood pressure values, after H. pylori eradication in hypertensive patients.” 5
Yes, there are, and this study is important because again, it shows how blood pressure levels can fall when H pylori is eradicated.
In 2003, a team of Italian scientists stated:
“Recent studies show possible associations between H pylori infection and cardiovascular diseases. The aim of our study was to determine the prevalence of H pylori in hypertensive patients and to assess the effects of H pylori eradication on blood pressure values.” 6
The team took 72 folk with high blood pressure and 70 control subjects with normal blood pressure.
They used a breath test to determine how many subjects had H pylori in each group and also identified whether patients had the CagA H pylori strain.
55% of the high blood pressure patients had H pylori and 90% of those the H pylori infections were with the CagA strain.
Of the control group, 55% also had H pylori but only 60% of the infections were CagA.
H pylori triple therapy treatment was administered to the H pylori positive group.
Blood pressure values fell significantly when H pylori was eradicated but remained the same in the control group.
The researchers to concluded that:
“Our study shows a significant decrease of blood pressure after H pylori eradication in hypertensive patients, suggesting an association between infection with CagA positive strains H pylori bacteria and hypertension.”
As always, I have to be careful to make my position clear.
I’m not suggesting that everyone with high blood pressure is infected by H pylori, but blood pressure values are often higher when people have H pylori versus folk who don’t.
I’m not implying that H pylori causes high hypertension in everyone who has high blood pressure, but blood pressure falls in people when their H pylori is successfully treated.
So what I’m suggesting is that research indicates a link between H pylori and high blood pressure.
Given that high blood pressure is an independent risk factor for heart disease, I think it’s well worth getting checked out for H pylori if you have hypertension.
I also think it’s worthwhile getting your heavy metal levels tested, especially mercury and lead.
With H pylori, it’s definitely worth getting checked out for the CagA H pylori strain.
The CagA strain appears to be more problematic when it comes to the H pylori and high blood pressure association.
In fact, CagA H pylori seems to be more of a factor in all cardiovascular conditions compared with non-CagA counterparts.
But there’s a problem because docs – through no fault of their own – don’t do H pylori tests to identify different strains.
The H pylori blood tests, H pylori breath test, H pylori stool antigen test (HPSA) and even endoscopies don’t assess for different H pylori strains.
If you’re keen on running a test to clarify your H pylori strain, the technology developed by private laboratories such as DSL and DRG is available to you.
It enables you to do this with a single stool sample that you do at home.
I can’t recommend this test highly enough because in my opinion it DOES matter which H pylori strain you have.
Check out the home stool testing details here.
The post you’ve just read is the best starting point – congratulations on reading it!
Next, I recommend you read the posts in this sequence (if you can’t link through to the articles, it just means they’re not “live” yet.)
It’s over to you – do you have any comments, questions or stories relating to H pylori, digestive health or even cardiovascular disease?
If so, we’d love to hear from you and you’re very welcome to join the discussion by leaving a comment, below.