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Identifying Genetic Factors Influencing Hypertension Risk

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a prevalent global health concern, affecting approximately one in three adults worldwide and contributing to around 10 million deaths annually. While certain risk factors like age, ethnicity, and existing health conditions can increase susceptibility to hypertension, lifestyle modifications such as weight loss, healthy eating, reduced salt intake, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking can help mitigate this risk.

Recent research conducted by scientists at Queen Mary University of London has shed light on over 100 new regions of the human genome and more than 2,000 independent genetic signals that influence an individual's blood pressure. Published in the journal Nature Genetics, this study offers insights that could enhance doctors' ability to predict an individual's risk of developing high blood pressure.

In this study, genetic data from over 1 million individuals across various research databases were analyzed. The researchers identified 113 novel regions of the human genome, known as genomic loci, and more than 2,000 independent genetic signals associated with blood pressure regulation.

Notably, the study revealed that these genetic variants within a locus can be diverse and uncorrelated, suggesting distinct biological mechanisms influencing blood pressure regulation. By aggregating the effects of these genetic variants into a polygenic risk score, the researchers were able to assess an individual's genetic predisposition to hypertension.

Polygenic risk scores offer a comprehensive assessment of an individual's genetic risk by combining the effects of multiple genetic variants associated with blood pressure regulation. Participants with the highest genetic risk for hypertension exhibited mean systolic blood pressure levels approximately 17 mmHg higher than those with the lowest genetic risk. Additionally, individuals in the highest genetic risk group had a seven-fold increased likelihood of developing high blood pressure compared to those in the lowest genetic risk group.

These findings underscore the complex interplay between genetics and hypertension risk and highlight the potential of polygenic risk scores in identifying individuals at heightened risk for the condition. By leveraging genetic insights, healthcare providers may enhance risk stratification and implement targeted interventions to prevent and manage hypertension more effectively

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