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Father's Life Span Linked to Blood Pressure

French Study: Higher Blood Pressure in Adults Whose Fathers Die Young
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WebMD Health News

May 2, 2005 -- A father's longevity may influence his adult children's blood pressure, say French researchers.

However, maternal longevity doesn't show the same pattern, say experts from INSERM, France's national health and medical research agency.

"These results indicate that there are dynamic and continuous processes linking paternal longevity to BP in adults," say the researchers.

Their findings were presented in Washington at the American Heart Association's 45th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.

High Blood Pressure Common Worldwide

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. It contributes to half of all heart disease, which kills an estimated 17 million people worldwide each year, says the web site of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Up to a third of adults in most countries have high blood pressure, the WHO estimates. Fifty percent to 60% would improve their health if they lowered their blood pressure by increasing physical activity and eating more fruits and vegetables, says the WHO.

In January's issue of The Lancet, researchers estimated that by 2025, more than 1.5 billion people will have high blood pressure -- a 60% increase from 2000.

In the U.S., nearly one in three adults has high blood pressureone in three adults has high blood pressure but almost a third of them don't know it, says the American Heart Association. Heart disease is a leading cause of death in American men and women.

High blood pressure is defined as having systolic blood pressure (the first number) of 140 or higher or diastolic blood pressure (the second number) of 90 or more.

"Prehypertensive" numbers are systolic blood pressure of 120-139 or diastolic blood pressure of 80-89. Even this top range of normal increases the risk of premature deaththis top range of normal increases the risk of premature death from heart disease, according to the World Health Organization.

Normal blood pressure is systolic blood pressure of 120 or lower and diastolic blood pressure of 80 or lower. Those guidelines were published almost two years ago in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A quick, noninvasive test can check blood pressure. Because there are no symptoms, people may not feel ill. So getting tested is important.getting tested is important. Lifestyle changes can help address high blood pressure, and medications are also prescribed when needed.

Blood Pressure Findings

The French study followed 1,047 adults for seven years. Participants were about 52 years old. Nearly half (48%) were women.

At the beginning of the study, subjects were asked if their father was still alive or how old he was when he died. Participants also had their blood pressure checked; 27% had high blood pressure at the study's start.

High blood pressure was most common in people whose fathers had died prematurely (before age 65).

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