Chris Willie, a Human Kinetics PhD student at UBC’s Okanagan campus, is the principal author of a new study soon to appear in one of the world’s top clinical journals, Hypertension. The study will be available online March 21.
The study, titled Neuromechanical features of the cardiac baroreflex following exercise, provides new insights into the mechanisms that control blood pressure before and following exercise in healthy people.
“The purpose of my study was to understand why, after exercise, blood pressure is decreased — it’s a relatively unexplored area,” says Willie, whose research focuses on better understanding the integrated mechanisms regulating human cerebral blood flow in health and disease.
“In the most basic definition, my research examines the relationship between blood pressure control and blood flow in the brain.”
Using state-of-the-art ultrasound technology to assess the characteristics of the carotid artery before and after exercise, Willie, along with colleagues from Harvard Medical School in Boston and Otago Medical School in New Zealand, analyzed 10 healthy individuals over three months.
“We were able to identify neural mechanisms that show the human brain actively decreases blood pressure regulation after exercise,” says Willie. “What this does is provide evidence that exercise can be used as an effective tool to help decrease high blood pressure. It also allows clinicians and scientists who study pharmaceutical treatment of blood pressure to better understand how this physiology, as well as exercise can be utilized to enhance treatment.”
Willie adds that a significant number of Canadians die from, or live with, diseases that are directly or indirectly caused by improper blood pressure regulation, ranging from heart failure to stroke.
“It is essential to better understand these processes so improved prevention options and treatments can be developed,” says Willie. “This study offers new and meaningful data which will have fairly broad implications in the long term, so to be able to publish it in a well-respected journal was definitely the goal and it’s very exciting.”
“Hypertension is the number one clinical blood pressure journal in the world. To publish in it is a really impressive feat in anyone’s career,” says Phil Ainslie, associate professor of Human Kinetics and Willie’s PhD supervisor.
Willie will continue with his research in Perth, Australia, examining the specific effects of a three-month exercise program on the regulation of brain blood flow in a healthy, older adult population with and without dementia.
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