Clinical Review

Science, medicine, and the future : Hypertension

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 26 April 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1258
  1. Morris J Brown, professor of clinical pharmacology (mjb14{at}
  1. a Clinical Pharmacology Unit, University of Cambridge, Box 110, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge CB2 2QQ


    The abundance of drugs now available for treating hypertension, and evidence that small reductions in blood pressure reverse the associated risk of stroke have shifted clinical concerns away from hypertension. However, we do not understand the cause of hypertension in 95% of patients, fail to achieve a normal blood pressure in 50% of patients, and are unable fully to reverse the cardiac and vascular changes that predate the diagnosis and treatment of hypertension. Consequently, hypertension remains the commonest cause of strokes in Britain and of renal failure in the United States. Essential hypertension is a polygenic disease whose understanding can now be advanced through molecular genetic analyses. Several different syndromes are likely to be recognised; most will be due to interactions between genetic and environmental factors, but there are also likely to be further monogenic syndromes in families with multiple affected members. Recognition of these syndromes will permit accurate genetic prediction of prognosis and optimal treatment and perhaps lead to new and more powerful classes of antihypertensive treatment.


    • Series edited by: John Savill

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