Unhealthy behavior + genes = hypertension

August 6, 2009 by  

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blood-pressureIt all adds up – unhealthy behaviour and genes – to pave the way towards hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

We all know that certain lifestyle factors, e.g. cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption and lack pf physical exercise lead to high blood pressure. However, for the first time, researchers found that there are specific genes which interact with these behaviours and result in increased hypertension risk.

According to lead author Dr. Nora Franceschini, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill

“The three lifestyle characteristics are well-known risk factors for high blood pressure. What’s new is that we are showing that these behaviors interact with your genes to influence blood pressure levels.”

This means that your genes aren’t the only ones that determine your risk. You may be predisposed to hypertension based on your family history but by modifying your lifestyle, you can actually minimize your chances of being hypertensive.

“The most interesting study finding is that a susceptibility to hypertension in your genetic background doesn’t mean that your lifestyle exposures do not matter, they do. Drinking, smoking and exercise habits can be modified, which would, in turn, influence the risk of developing hypertension, even in people who are predisposed to the condition.”

The researchers looked at the medical and genetic history of 3,665 participants as part of the ongoing Strong Heart Family Study which is a large epidemiologic study of American Indians. The participants were aged 14 to 93 years of age and were part of large families of several generations. The goal of the study was to see how inherited genetic patterns vary among those with different lifestyles and educational levels. The results showed that lifestyle factors interact with genes/ethnicity and lead to hypertension. Educational level also seems to play a role but at a very minor level.

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