A middle-aged adult’s risk of High Blood Pressure seems to be related in part to how long his father lived, new research findings suggest.
In a study that followed more than 1,000 adults age 50 and up, French researchers found that those whose fathers lived to the age of 80 had healthier blood pressure readings than their peers.
systolic blood pressure, which is reflected in the first number of a blood pressure reading, normally creeps up with age. If it goes above 140 while diastolic pressure (the second number) remains normal, this is considered isolated systolic hypertension, which carries all the risks of High Blood Pressure - including Heart disease, Stroke and kidney failure.
High Blood Pressure is defined as a reading of 140/90 mm Hg or greater.
The new findings suggest that a father’s longevity may be a good indicator of a person’s risk of High Blood Pressure and its complications, according to the study authors, led by Dr. Mahmoud Zureik of the French national health institute INSERM.
“These results indicate that there are dynamic and continuous processes linking paternal longevity to blood pressure in adults,” the researchers state in the medical journal Hypertension.
The findings are based on data from healthy middle-aged and older adults who took part in a clinical trial testing whether antioxidant vitamins help prevent Heart disease and cancer. As part of that study, participants reported their parents’ ages, or their ages at death.
Zureik and his colleagues found that 35 percent of men and women whose fathers died before the age of 65 had High Blood Pressure, versus 20 percent of those whose fathers lived to age 80 or beyond. Among adults with fathers who died between those ages, about 28 percent had High Blood Pressure.
What’s more, adults whose fathers died early were 67 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure over the next 7 years than their peers with long-lived fathers.
This link persisted when the researchers accounted for factors such as age, weight, smoking habits and diabetes. A mother’s lifespan, on the hand, showed no relationship with her adult children’s risk of High Blood Pressure.
Research has shown both High Blood Pressure and overall longevity to be related to family history, Zureik and his colleagues note. The current findings, they conclude, suggest that a father’s age at death could help signify a person’s risk of High Blood Pressure and its consequences, and pinpoint people who need particularly aggressive management of elevated blood pressure.
It’s unclear why maternal longevity was not associated with High Blood Pressure risk, according to the researchers. One possibility, they speculate, is that men are more likely than women to die prematurely of cardiovascular disease.
SOURCE: Hypertension, August 2005.
Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD