The brain, not the heart is responsible for high blood pressure, according to details of a study by British researchers released Sunday.
The scientists said that hypertension, which can lead to heart attacks, strokes and kidney damage, is an inflammatory vascular disease of the brain rather than the heart, as previously thought.
They discovered that a protein located in the brain, JAM-1, trapped white blood cells, which can then cause inflammation and obstruct blood flow, leading to poor oxygen supply to the brain.
Professor Julian Paton, from Bristol University, western England, said the findings could lead to new ways of treating the condition.
"We are looking at the possibility of treating those patients that fail to respond to conventional therapy for hypertension with drugs that reduce blood vessel inflammation and increase blood flow within the brain," he added.
"The future challenge will be to understand the type of inflammation within the vessels in the brain, so we know what drug to use and how to target them.
"JAM-1 could provide us with new clues as how to deal with this disease."
Conventional treatment for reducing high blood pressure includes eating low fat food, reducing salt intake and regular exercise.
The associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, Professor Jeremy Pearson, said: "This exciting study is important because it suggests there are unexpected causes of high blood pressure related to blood supply to the brain.
"It therefore opens up the possibility of new ways to treat this common, but often poorly managed condition."
About one in three people in Britain and more than 600 million people worldwide are thought to suffer from hypertension.
The findings are to be published in the next edition of medical journal Hypertension.