Children with parents who have high blood pressure, or “hypertension,” may also develop high blood pressure down the road, a study shows. However, the increased risk appears to only affect men.
This finding is important, doctors write in the American Journal of Hypertension, because the ability to spot individuals at increased risk for high blood pressure “enables one to intervene early in life by means of diet and lifestyle changes, resulting in a potential decrease in the incidence of hypertension.”
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease including heart attack and stroke. Lowering blood pressure could decrease illness and death related to high blood pressure.
Dr. Iris B. Goldstein and two colleagues from the University of California, Los Angeles studied 220 healthy men and women between 22 to 50 years of age who worked full-time in professional or skilled jobs in or around Los Angeles.
These individuals provided information on family medical history and completed two 24-hour ambulatory BP sessions.
The investigators found that men with two hypertensive parents had higher blood pressure readings throughout the day and night than men whose parents had normal blood pressure. Men with one hypertensive parent had “intermediate” blood pressure levels.
For women, however, blood pressure was not associated with family history.
Although blood pressure increases with age in all individuals, before menopause many women seem to be protected against high blood pressure, the authors note. Only after menopause does high blood pressure become as common in women as it is in men.
In addition, among subjects with at least one hypertensive parent, men had consistently higher waking and sleeping blood pressure than women.
Shared family environment and genetics may explain why high blood pressure clusters in families, according to the authors. “Not only does the occurrence of two hypertensive parents increase the genetic component of elevated blood pressure in offspring, but a shared environment (health habits inducing hypertension) could further increase a child’s tendency to become hypertensive,” Goldstein and colleagues conclude.
SOURCE: American Journal of Hypertension, May 2006.
Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD