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Moms May Pass Hypertension Risk to Kids

Study Shows Genetic Mutation May Send High Blood Pressure to Next Generation

Second Opinion

While the finding appears to have no immediate use to patients, it may eventually aid treatment approaches, says Thomas Giles, MD, professor of medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, and past president of the American Society of Hypertension. He reviewed the study findings for WebMD.

For instance, someday those with high blood pressure linked to oxidative stress might be treated with antioxidants, he says.

An increase in free radicals seen with this mutation leads to a decrease in nitric oxide, which helps keep blood vessels relaxed, Giles says. As they constrict and narrow, high blood pressure can result.

If the research bears out, Giles say, this type of high blood pressure linked to mitochondrial malfunction will probably explain a very small percent of total cases.

Eventually, scientists may find out how to repair this genetic defect, he says.

One weakness of the study is that the exact mechanism of how the mutation leads to the high blood pressure is not known for sure, says Donna Arnett, MD, professor and chair of epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. She is a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association.

However, the research might lead to a genetic screening test in the future, she says.

Blood pressure is considered high when the systolic pressure is 140 or more and the diastolic is 90 or more. Systolic is the upper number of the blood pressure reading. It reflects pressure when the heart contracts. Diastolic, the lower number, reflects the pressure when the heart relaxes.

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