Study of Smoking And Genetics Illuminates Complexities of Blood Pressure

Source: Washington School University of Medicine

Summary: According to a new study, researchers analyzed the genetics and smoking habits of more than half a million people has shed new light on the complexities of controlling blood pressure.

Blood pressure (BP) is a strong indicator of cardiovascular health. While simple to measure, BP is controlled by a complex interplay of genetics and lifestyle, and both must be considered when uncovering what drives high BP. For example, lifelong smokers who have high blood pressure as might be expected likely have different genetic backgrounds from lifelong smokers who nevertheless have normal blood pressure. Such differences, which this study sought to uncover, can highlight genes involved in controlling blood pressure that past research may have missed. Researchers from the Washington School University of Medicine in a new study analyzed the genetics and smoking habits of more than half a million people has shed new light on the complexities of controlling blood pressure. The study findings were published in the journal The American Journal of Human Genetics.

How genes interact with lifestyle and influence measures of heart health.

The study, conducted by an international consortium of investigators, was led by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Credit: Sara Moser/Washington University School of Medicine

The study included more than 600,000 participants from multiple studies that recorded data on smoking status, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and genetic markers across the genome. It included participants of European, African, Asian, Hispanic and Brazilian ancestries. The analysis uncovered some surprisingly novel results. The researchers found many genes associated with blood pressure that also have been implicated in metabolic problems, including diabetes, obesity and kidney disease. In another interesting finding, the study linked blood pressure to genes associated with addiction, including alcohol and nicotine dependence. In short, the picture emerging in blood pressure control involves central and peripheral systems of the body that span the brain, kidneys, adrenal glands and vasculature, according to the researchers.

Assoc. Prof.  Lisa de las Fuentes said, “”Blood pressure involves everything from how well your heart squeezes, to how well your blood vessels relax, to how well your brain signals your adrenal glands telling your kidneys to hold on to saltwater”, “It’s a sophisticated and elegant system, and we’re still working to understand it so we can better treat our patients.”

More Information: Sung YJ, et al, “A large-scale multi-ancestry genome-wide study accounting for smoking behavior identifies multiple significant loci for blood pressure”, The American Journal of Human Genetics (2018).

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