Poor Sleep Could Cause Stiffening of Blood Vessels

Node Smith, ND

Circadian Clock Fluctuations May Impact Inflammatory Enzymes

Research is beginning to show that alterations in circadian clock function may have a direct impact on inflammatory enzymes that contribute to arteriolar thickening.1

The Relationship Between the Circadian Rhythm and Enzyme – ADAM17

Two vascular biologists from Medical College of Georgia, Dr. Dan Rudic and Dr. Zsolt Bagi, have begun working together to shed light on the relationship between the circadian rhythm and an enzyme – ADAM17 – that is involved in the stiffening of vasculature.

Meet the Enzymes: Bmal1 and ADAM17

Bmal1 is an enzyme that is altered with a lack of sleep, or with changes in circadian rhythm – during shift work for example. Rudic and Bagi are interested in whether Bmal1 directly regulates ADAM17. This would mean that the relationship between sleep cycles and vascular health is a major factor in cardiovascular health risk.

The 2 researchers have been awarded $2.2 million from the National Institutes of Health to explore this relationship.

Disruption of the Circadian Rhythm and How it Impacts Blood Vessels

Rudic’s lab has already shown that disruption of the circadian rhythm impacts blood vessels, and that Bmal1 is a primary regulator of circadian clock function. Likewise, Bagi’s research has been conclusive in showing that stiff blood vessels have high levels of ADAM17 and lower levels of its inhibitor. The question is whether one is causing the other.

Some Evidence that Dysfunction in Primary Clock Leads to Unhealthy Increases in ADAM17

They do have some evidence that dysfunction in the primary clock does, in fact, lead to unhealthy increases in ADAM17 – this is a novel, yet unexplored signal. Downregulation of the circadian clock occurs naturally with aging, as well as with consuming too much caffeine.

Heart Disease Still Number 1 Killer in the U.S.

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, and stiff vessels are a significant risk factor. They are a contributing factor in hypertension, as well as limiting the delivery of blood to tissues.

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Photo by Hernan Sanchez on Unsplash


Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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