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Medical English / 6. 7. 2009

How to Catch High Blood Pressure / By Tom Secrest


By Tom Secrest
The word cytomegalovirus (HCMV or HHV-5), which means ‘big cell virus’ in Greek, may sound a little disquieting, but for most people it produces only a mild infection with minor, virtually insignificant, symptoms. As a member of the Human Herpes family of viruses (HHV-5), it is characterized by its ability to remain latent for years or even decades.

Estimates suggest that 50% to 80% of adults have been infected with this virus. Most people seem to have been infected during childhood. When symptoms do occur, they often take the form of infectious mononucleosis marked by a prolonged, low-grade fever and mild hepatitis.

Generally, serious infections are only associated with those who have compromised immune systems. HCMV is also part of a group called TORCH infections; TORCH being an acronym for Toxoplasmosis; Other diseases (e.g. HIV, Syphilis, Hep. B); Rubella; Cytomegalovirus; and Herpes simplex virus. The diseases in this group can lead to congenital abnormalities if a pregnant woman experiences a primary infection or serious reactivation during pregnancy.

It may be, however, that HCMV is responsible for something else as well. Early studies with mice (reported in the Washington Post, 14 May 2009) suggest that CMV infections, together with high cholesterol diets, may lead to chronic inflammation of blood vessels, which could ultimately result in those vessels becoming less compliant and stiffer. Additionally, CMV-infected mouse and human cells also produced more renin than normal. Either of these factors could play a role in elevated blood pressure.

Therefore, if you are HCMV positive (which, statistically speaking, you are) and have high blood pressure: rather than blaming the Big Mac you had for lunch yesterday or the day before, it might be more accurate to blame the unknown person who, years ago, gave you HCMV and, in the process, high blood pressure as well.

Perhaps science is on the verge of finding an infection-based explanation for heart disease and hypertension but, for now, the jury is still out.


  • blood pressure – krevní tlak
  • disquieting – znepokojový, zneklidňující
  • insignificant – bezvýznamný, nedůležitý, zanedbatelný
  • estimate – odhadovat
  • seem – pravděpodobně, zdát se
  • occur – objevit se,
  • pregnant – gravidní
  • stiffer – tužší
  • blame – dávat vinu, obviňovat
  • verge – okraj


About Tom Secrest / Tom Secrest online



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