How do blood sugar, blood pressure and race intersect? A research team is asking that question – NAU

A team of NAU researchers is studying the relationship between blood sugar and blood pressure and how those factors contribute to the development of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease in historically underserved populations.

Sara Jarvis, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, is working with two graduate students and 10 undergraduate students on this project, which is focused on health disparities in the Hispanic population. And they need help in the form of willing and eligible participants. Could that be you?

Jarvis said no one is immune from high blood pressure or the risk of diabetes, but we know enough now to know that some demographic groups do have a greater risk of these health conditions, which in turn increase the risk of more life-threatening conditions like heart disease.

“We want to better understand the relationship between glucose regulation and hypertension risk,” Jarvis said. “If we can unravel this, we can begin to propose better intervention and treatment strategies that are more tailored to these groups.”

The premise of the project is that people who do not process sugar well will demonstrate larger changes in blood pressure when they are exposed to challenges in the laboratory. This suggests that those who are predisposed to developing diabetes are at risk for the development of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. And this risk is correlated with racial and ethnic demographics; the American Diabetes Association reports that minority groups at greater risk for developing diabetes, which thus increases the risk down the line.

Jarvis’ team isn’t studying why minority groups are at greater risk—it’s an important question, but not one for a biologist to answer. Instead, she wants to understand the mechanics of how they are at greater risk, which can lead to knowing how to better treat these populations.

To do this, the team needs people willing to be a part of the study. If you are:

  • Generally healthy
  • Between 18 and 45 years old
  • Non-smoking or tobacco using
  • Not overweight
  • Normotensive to slightly elevated blood pressure
  • COVID-19 negative

Then this study might be for you. Visit https://cvlab-nau.mozello.com/ for more information. Anyone interested in participating should contact CVLab@nau.edu for more information.

Jarvis’ team also wants to be part of the communities they study. They will present the results of the study to participants, but their outreach goes beyond that. They do blood pressure screenings and community clean-ups and volunteer at the Flagstaff Family Food Center and the Literacy Center.

“We very much want our lab’s involvement to be rooted in the Flagstaff community, as well as build a relationship between the scientific community and the community at large,” she said.

In addition to this research, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health, Jarvis’ lab has obtained funding through the NASA internship program and the URDEA collaborative research award.  The NASA project examines the impact of COVID-19 on the cardiovascular system and the URDEA award examines the effect of e-cigarette usage on the vasculature (blood vessels).

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