Scientists have discovered that one cause of high blood pressure may lie in the brain, rather than the heart or blood vessels.
The research, performed at the University of Bristol, revealed that a protein found in the brain, known as JAM-1, traps white blood cells.
This causes inflammation which can obstruct blood flow, prompting the idea that high blood pressure, or hypertension, is linked to the brain.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, 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."
This discovery could bring about more effective treatment to the one in three people in the UK suffering from hypertension.
Professor Julian Paton, part of the research group, said: "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.
"The future challenge will be to understand the type of inflammation within the vessels in the brain, so that we know what drug to use and how to target them.
"JAM-1 could provide us with new clues as to how to deal with this disease."