Role of the Sympathetic Nervous System in Hypertension and Hypertension-Related Cardiovascular Disease

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Abstract

A number of cardiovascular disease have been shown to be characterized by a marked increase in sympathetic drive to the heart and the peripheral circulation. This is the case for essential hypertension, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, obesity, metabolic syndrome, obstructive sleep apnea, and chronic renal disease. This review focuses on the most recent findings documenting the role of sympathetic neural factors in the development and progression of the hypertensive state as well as in the pathogenesis of hypertension-related target organ damage. It also reviews the role of sympathetic neural factors in the development of cardiovascular diseases not necessarily strictly related to the hypertensive state, such as congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, obesity, metabolic syndrome and renal failure. The paper will finally review the pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions acting on the sympathetic drive. Emphasis will be given to the new approaches, such as renal nerves ablation and carotid baroreceptor stimulation, which have been shown to exert sympathoinhibitory effects.

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