FEBRUARY 01, 2007

High BP During Pregnancy Raises Disease Risk Later On

Women who develop high blood pressure (BP) during pregnancy have a higher risk of stroke and heart and kidney disease later in life. A new study conducted at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn, questions the theory that hypertension during pregnancy is a temporary side effect with no longterm consequences for later in life. This study included 4782 women, average age 54, and was the largest of its kind and the first to include multiracial patients. All the women had a high family risk of hypertension and were participating in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family BP Program study from 2000 to 2005.

The researchers looked at 3 groups: 718 women who had no history of a pregnancy lasting longer than 6 months; 3421 who had normal BP throughout their pregnancies; and 643 who had hypertension while pregnant. Most of the women had a sibling who also had high BP. The study showed that women who had high BP during pregnancy had twice the risk of stroke as those who did not. They also had 1.5 times the risk of heart attack and of developing hypertension after age 40. Of this group, "50% of them had high BP by age 52," researchers said. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology in November 2006.

Alcohol Intake Has No Effect on High BP Risk

According to researchers at the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute in Oakland, Calif, although a link exists between alcohol intake and high blood pressure (BP), the absence or amount of alcohol consumed does not appear to be significantly associated with successive hypertension- related events. The researchers studied data from >127,000 patients who had health examinations between 1978 and 1988. They were divided into 5 groups based on levels of alcohol consumption, ranging from no alcohol to 3 or more drinks per day. Although the risks of experiencing subsequent cardiovascular end points—such as death, hospitalization, and outpatient diagnosis of hypertension—were greater as BP levels increased, no correlation was found between the amount of alcohol consumed and the risk of reaching these end points. The results of the study were published in the October 15, 2006, edition of the American Journal of Cardiology.

Baby Boomers with Hypertension Ignore Med Warnings

According to the results of a national health survey commissioned by Schering- Plough HealthCare Products Inc, most baby boomers—those born between 1946 and 1964, the first wave of whom turned 60 last year—with high blood pressure (BP) admit that they are aware of warnings on many decongestants that state using the products will raise their BP even more, yet they use them anyway. About one third of the boomers have high BP.

About 4 in 10 respondents expected to become hypertensive based on their family's history, but another 3 in 10 said they were surprised by the diagnosis. Only about 25% said that the diagnosis motivated them to change to a healthier lifestyle, while about 63.5% admitted the need to lose weight and exercise to control their BP levels.

The Hypertension in the Boomer Population study examined the perceptions, feelings, and experiences of boomers with high BP. The survey was based on interviews with a nationwide sample of 1000 hypertensive adults aged 42 to 60. The American Heart Association issued a reminder in December 2006 that people with high BP should be cautious about the OTC cold and flu relief products they use, because many of them contain pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, which could raise BP.

Mexican Americans at Higher Risk of Second Stroke

A recent study showed that Mexican Americans who have already suffered one stroke are 57% more likely to experience a second one than non-Hispanic whites. The findings complement a previous study in 1998 that showed that Puerto Rican Americans who have had a stroke face 3 times the risk of another one as white stroke patients do. Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor found that, although this population has a higher risk of stroke occurrence, "we still don't exactly know why that is."

In the 4-year study, researchers identified all cases of ischemic stroke that occurred among >310,000 adults over age 45 who resided in southeast Texas. Mexican Americans made up about half this population. Of a total of 1345 stroke cases reported, 118 of initial stroke sufferers went on to experience a second stroke. Mexican Americans accounted for 76 of those recurrences and had a 57% higher risk for recurrence than their white counterparts. The findings were reported in the September 2006 issue of the Annals of Neurology.