Hypertension Causes Genetics

There’s a clear link between hypertension and genetics. Hypertension runs in families, and is more common in some ethnic groups than others. Both facts point to a genetic cause of some cases of high blood pressure. Identifying the exact genetics of hypertension, however, is likely to take time.

Gender, Ethnicity and High Blood Pressure

A number of factors point to a connection between hypertension and genetics. A family history of high blood pressure increases a person’s risk of hypertension, although the influence of familial lifestyle is also a strong factor.

Certain ethnic groups have a higher risk of developing hypertension than other groups, again suggesting a link between genetics and high blood pressure. Most at risk are people of African descent, who develop hypertension more often (and at a younger age) than people of Caucasian descent. People of African descent also appear to be more at risk of developing serious high blood pressure complications, such as heart attacks and strokes.

Gender may also play a role in the genetics of hypertension. Men are more likely to develop high blood pressure than women of the same age, although either gender can develop hypertension.

Genetics, Lifestyle and High Blood Pressure

Whether genetics or lifestyle cause high blood pressure has always been open to debate. Studies now suggest that lifestyle choices may trigger genetic propensities to hypertension.

A study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics examined hypertension in multigenerational families, looking for connections between genetics and lifestyle. The study discovered that while family history increased the risk of hypertension, risks went even higher when smoking, alcohol and sedentary lifestyles were involved.

The results suggest that while genetics certainly play a role in hypertension, healthy lifestyle choices can mitigate the risk of developing high blood pressure.

Hunting for the Hypertension Gene

Over thirty different genes are under investigation for their role in the genetics of hypertension. It’s unlikely, however, that a single gene is the only culprit in hypertension development. More likely, a complex interaction of genes influences a person’s genetic risk of high blood pressure.

At least three variants on the kidney gene G protein coupled receptor kinase type 4 (GRK4) are associated with essential hypertension (hypertension for which no medical cause can be found). The GRK4 discovery led to a genetic test for the genetic variants, allowing people to learn if they are at risk of high blood pressure in order to receive early treatment and make preventative lifestyle changes.

Further discoveries are likely to identify other factors in the genetics of hypertension, increasing medical understanding of the causes of high blood pressure and allowing early detection of genetic risk factors. Presently, the best advice is to see your physician so that your hypertension risk can be assessed with a thorough exam.

Resources

American Heart Association Staff. (2009). Smoking, drinking, lack of exercise interact with genes to increase risk of hypertension. Retrieved January 22, 2010, from the American Heart Association Web site: http://americanheart.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43