Small genetic differences between individuals contribute small differences in blood pressure that are sufficient to present different risks of heart attack and stroke, according to two large genome-wide scans published in this week\'s issue of Nature Genetics.
The Global BPgen and the CHARGE consortium examined genetic markers across the genomes of 63,569 individuals of European descent and found in numerous regions that were associated with commonly-measured pumping heart and relaxing heart blood pressures or clinically-diagnosed high blood pressure.
The proportion of blood pressure variation explained by ten genetic variants in the new studies is small - about 1% after taking into account age, gender and body mass index. However, when acting together in combination, the variants were calculated to be sufficient to account for an increased blood pressure that is associated in epidemiological studies with a 34% increase in risk for stroke and a 21% increase in risk of coronary artery events such as heart attacks. High blood pressure can be lowered to a healthy range by losing weight, reducing salt intake, exercising, reducing alcohol consumption, or by antihypertensive medication.