Researchers Uncover Genetic Clues to Blood Pressure
An international research team has identified a number of unsuspected genetic variants associated with systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), and hypertension (high blood pressure), suggesting potential avenues of investigation for the prevention or treatment of hypertension.
Levy:High blood pressure is one of the most important causes of cardio-vascular disease.
Balintfy: That's Dr. Daniel Levy, Director of the Framingham Heart Study and Center for Population Studies at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. He says about a quarter of the adult population in the U.S. has high blood pressure, representing roughly 70 million people.
Levy: We know that high blood pressure treatment can reduce the high blood pressure levels and reduce risk for cardio-vascular disease complication. So identifying new genes associated with high blood pressure is potentially quite important because it may allow us to find people at high risk for the development of hypertension. And it may also allow us in the future to develop new drugs to prevent or treat high blood pressure.
Balintfy: Dr. Levy explains that the study, published online in the journal Nature Genetics, included more than 29,000 people from six different studies around the world.
Levy: And in each individual, we measured on average about 500,000 different genetic test results. And when you take those numbers of test results into 30,000 people, this represents an enormous amount of information.
Balintfy: Unlike previous attempts to identify genes associated with blood pressure that met with limited success, this study found eight. But Dr. Levy emphasizes that these results do not mean patients will be treated differently today.
Levy: We know that lowering blood pressure is beneficial. And the results of this study will not change the way doctors are treating people with blood pressure at this time. But clearly our study shows that there are many genes involved in blood pressure regulation; and abnormalities in many of these genes can contribute to high blood pressure.
Balintfy: Dr. Levy says that this information combined with future study has significant promise.
Levy: We may be able to come up with new approaches for picking up high risk people; and in the more distant future, understanding which genetic variance results in someone's high blood pressure may allow us to better individualize a given patient's treatment.
Balintfy: Hypertension can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems. It causes over seven million deaths worldwide each year; but effective medications for lowering blood pressure are available. For details on this study or for more on the risks of high blood pressure, visit www.nhlbi.nih.gov. This is Joe Balintfy, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.