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Family plays role in heart disease risks
Health advice
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Scientist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Human Genetic Research and Cardiovascular Research Center recently completed a study that documented that high blood pressure is triggered not only by what we eat and the use of tobacco, but also by our parents.
The study showed 10 genetic variants, when combined, can significantly raise the risks of heart attack, heart disease and stroke. Along with other risk factors; age, gender and weight; the combination of genes was to blame for a 21 percent increase in the risk of heart attack and disease and 34 percent for stroke.
Researchers found that most people who suffered from high blood pressure had the same 10 genetic variations for systolic and diastolic blood pressure. People who did not have the gene variants had lower blood pressure.
High blood pressure and hypertension are leading causes of heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and other problems. Each year worldwide, more than seven million people die from high blood pressure. Common treatments include losing weight, cutting salt and alcohol, exercising and medication.
A National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute study found the adverse effects of high blood pressure was true for both men and women at all ages, although it was especially high for those 65 and older.
Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of arteries. It is recorded as two numbers—the systolic pressure (as the heart beats) over the diastolic pressure (heart relaxes). Blood pressures of 140/90 or over are considered high.
The causes of high blood pressure vary and may include narrowing of the arteries, a greater than normal volume of blood, or the heart beating faster or more forcefully than it should. It may also be caused by another medical problem, such as kidney disease. Although high blood pressure usually cannot be cured, it can often be prevented and controlled.
More than 50 million American adults (one in three) have high blood pressure. It is especially common in African-Americans. Many Americans tend to develop high blood pressure as they age, but this is not necessarily a part of aging. Others at risk are the overweight, those with a family history and those with high-normal blood pressure.
Many people are unaware they have the disease, often known as “the silent killer.”  High blood pressure increases your risk for getting heart disease and/or kidney disease, and for having a stroke.
As people get older, arteries throughout the body “harden,” especially those in the heart, brain and kidneys. High blood pressure is associated with these “stiffer” arteries. This, in turn, causes the heart and kidneys to work harder.
Tips to help you prevent or control blood pressure:
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Stay active. Do at least 30 minutes of moderate activity, such as walking, most days of the week.
• Choose foods low in salt and sodium, no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day.
• Eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, and low fat dairy products.
• Cut back on alcohol.

Ratcliff is a spokeswoman for the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-2173, ext 236.
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