Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital found a strong link between levels of C-reactive protein in the blood and the future development of high blood pressure. C-reactive protein (CRP) is an indicator of inflammation and has already been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. The research, conducted by the hospital’s Center for Cardiovascular Disease and Prevention, provides evidence for the first time that high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, may be an inflammatory disease. If that’s the case, inflammation may contribute to a rise in blood pressure by promoting changes in the endothelium, which lines the walls of the blood vessels. Elevated levels of C-reactive protein may induce structural and functional changes in the endothelium ultimately contributing to the rise in blood pressure. “This opens up a new area of research,” said Assistant Professor of Medicine Howard D. Sesso, the study’s lead author. “More often than not, high blood pressure is viewed as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and not looked at [by those interested in] primary prevention.” The study was published in the Dec. 10, 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.