High BP: Blame Familial Link
A 54-year-old study has firmed up thelink between parents' high blood pressure(BP) and the odds their offspring willdevelop the condition. Whereas a historyof hypertension is well-established as awarning sign, the current study has someunique components.
For example, the huge amount of data.The study followed 1160 men in a studythat began in 1947, when the participantswere medical students, and tookannual measurements of their BP overthe next 5 decades. The researchers alsowere able to classify the potential riskmuch better.At the start of the study, 264participants reported at least one parentwith high BP, whereas only 20 had bothparents with high BP. At the end of thestudy, 583 new cases of parental hypertensionwere diagnosed, translating into60% of the group with at least one parentwith the condition and 14% with 2 parents.
Reporting in the March 24, 2008, issueof the Archives of Internal Medicine,lead author Nae-Yuh Wang, PhD, said,"What we found was that if parentshave hypertension early, their childrenhave a significantly higher risk of developinghypertension at an early age." Headded, "If the parents develop hypertensionat age 55 or earlier, the lifetime riskfor the children is 7-fold higher thannormal."
Alcohol May BoostBP, Study Says
Even moderate alcohol consumption may increase bloodpressure (BP) more than previously thought. Earlier studieshave associated heavy drinking with high BP whereas otherstudies have suggested that moderate alcohol consumptionprovides health benefits such as lowering cholesterol.
In the current study, reported recently in PLoS Medicine,the researchers found that individuals with a genetic mutationthat makes it hard to drink alcohol had a considerablylower BP than regular and heavy drinkers. Individuals withoutthe genetic mutation who consumed 3 drinks per dayhad "strikingly" high BP, compared with individuals with thegenetic change who drank small quantities or abstained. Theresearchers reported that there is >2-fold risk for high BPamong drinkers and a 70% increased risk for "quite modest"drinkers, compared with individuals with the genetic mutation."Reporting of alcohol (in other studies) is likely to besubject to considerable error, and this error may be differential—for example, people who have been advised to reducealcohol intake for medical reasons may under-report alcoholintake," said the researchers.
Marital Bliss, Good BP
A Brigham Young University study found that happily married coupleshave lower blood pressure (BP), compared with unhappy marriedcouples or singles. On the other hand, even a supportive, socialnetwork did not mean a BP benefit for singles or unhappy marriedcouples, according to a study reported in the March 20, 2008, issueof the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
"There seem to be some unique health benefits from marriage. It'snot just being married that benefits health—what's really the mostprotective of health is having a happy marriage," explained studyauthor Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, a psychologist who specializes inrelationships and health.
For the study, 204 married couples and 99 single adults woreportable BP monitors for 24 hours. The monitors recorded BP at randomperiods and provided a total of 72 readings. The researchersfound that overall, happily married couples scored 4 points lower onthe BP readings, compared with single adults.The study also showedthat BP among married individuals—especially those in happy marriages—dipped more during sleep than in single individuals.
"We wanted to capture participants' blood pressure doing whateverthey normally do in everyday life. Getting 1 or 2 readings in aclinic is not really representative of the fluctuations that occurthroughout the day," she said.
Smoking Ups Stroke Risk for High BP Patients
Data on 563,144 individuals showedthat smoking boosts the increased risk ofa hemorrhagic stroke for patients withhigh blood pressure (BP), according to astudy reported in the March 2008 issueof Stroke.
At the study onset, more than a thirdof the participants were smokers. During6.8 years of follow-up, 746 of the 210,961smokers and 899 of the 352,183 nonsmokershad a hemorrhagic stroke. Theresearchers found that for every 10 mmHg increase in systolic BP smokers facedan 81% increased risk of hemorrhagicstoke, compared with 66% increased riskfor nonsmokers.
Specifically, smokers with the highestsystolic BP readings (150 mm Hg orgreater) were 9.3 times more prone tohave a stroke, compared with smokerswith the lowest readings (120 mm Hg orless).
The nonsmoker participants with thehighest systolic BP readings were 7times more apt to experience a hemorrhagicstroke, compared with thepatients with the lowest readings.
F A S T F A C T : Of the individuals with diabetes, 60% also have high blood pressure.