Genes can affect your blood pressure from childhood, study finds

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In a new study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), researchers, including Ph.D. candidate Karsten Øvretveit, are delving into the link between genetics and blood pressure, offering new insights into how we can combat heart disease from an early age.

This study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, highlights how certain genetic variants influence blood pressure levels throughout life, potentially increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

The research indicates that even minor variations in blood pressure, often within what’s considered a normal range, can have long-lasting effects.

These small differences, rooted in our genetics, are present from childhood and persist throughout life, subtly influencing our health trajectory.

High blood pressure, a leading cause of heart attacks and strokes, affects people of all ages. In Norway alone, cardiovascular disease accounted for 23% of all deaths in 2022, underscoring the urgency of addressing this silent killer.

Øvretveit’s team explored the genetic foundations of high blood pressure by developing a genetic risk score.

This innovative approach assigns values to gene variants based on their impact on blood pressure, allowing researchers to identify individuals at higher risk.

The study leveraged health data from two significant population studies: the HUNT Study from Trøndelag and the “Children of the 90s” study from the UK.

These studies provided a unique opportunity to observe how genetic risk factors for high blood pressure manifest from early childhood into adulthood.

The findings were revealing. Children with a higher genetic risk for high blood pressure showed elevated levels as early as age three, with the gap widening over time.

This longitudinal perspective emphasizes the cumulative effect of slightly elevated blood pressure, increasing susceptibility to cardiovascular and kidney diseases later in life.

However, there’s a silver lining. The study suggests that early intervention, through lifestyle changes and possibly medication, can significantly mitigate the risk, even for those genetically predisposed.

In essence, managing blood pressure effectively may outweigh genetic risks, offering a proactive path to better health.

The research underscores the importance of large population studies in understanding complex health issues like blood pressure.

While the study primarily involved European populations, efforts are underway to develop genetic risk scores that are inclusive of diverse genetic backgrounds, addressing the overrepresentation of Europeans in genetic research.

This comprehensive approach to studying blood pressure reveals about 1,500 gene variants linked to blood pressure, though the biological mechanisms for many remain a mystery.

The methodology adopted by Øvretveit’s team, which includes a vast array of gene variants, showcases the complexity of blood pressure regulation and the potential for even more discoveries.

Understanding blood pressure is crucial. It measures the force of blood against the walls of our arteries, varying throughout the day and influenced by various factors.

Consistently high blood pressure, or hypertension, can lead to severe health consequences, including heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage.

This NTNU study opens new avenues for preventing and managing hypertension, emphasizing the power of genetics in shaping our health.

It offers hope that, through early detection and intervention, we can change the course of heart disease, turning genetic knowledge into a tool for better health outcomes.

If you care about blood pressure, please read studies about blood pressure drug that may increase risk of sudden cardiac arrest, and these teas could help reduce high blood pressure.

For more health information, please see recent studies about nutrient that could strongly lower high blood pressure, and results showing this novel antioxidant may help reverse blood vessels aging by 20 years.

The research findings can be found in European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

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