Genetics Plays a Major Role in Sex Disparities in Hypertension

Examining national data, including over 200,000 people of various racial and cultural origins, researchers evaluated the contribution of genetics to gender variations in hypertension.

About 50% of Americans suffer from hypertension, often known as high blood pressure. It is the biggest risk factor for the onset of cardiovascular illnesses such as coronary heart disease, heart failure, and stroke.

The researchers at the University of Alabama in Birmingham say anticipating the onset of hypertension may aid in the development of preventative measures that lower the risk of heart disease.

The present study, published in Circulation, used the UK Biobank data, which comprised over 486,000 people with various ancestries, to conduct genomewide association studies for systolic blood pressure.

The variations found in the genome-wide association study (GWAS) were aggregated, says Shetty, to create sex-specific polygenic risk scores (PRS) for systolic blood pressure. The hereditary propensity to develop hypertension is reflected in the PRS.

Subsequently, the group implemented the sex-specific PRS in the All of Us cohort. This NIH-funded research initiative brings together people from all around the country to advance precision medicine.

The researchers analyzed the relationship between PRS and hypertension in almost 200,000 people based on sex.

Hypertension and sex differences

According to Shetty, the researchers discovered that the PRS had a stronger correlation with hypertension in women than in men. The risk of hypertension was higher in females with a high PRS than in men, while the risk was lower in females with a low PRS than in males.

The study found that the relationships between genetic risk and hypertension varied before and after menopause. The risk of hypertension was more significant in premenopausal women with a high hereditary risk than in males, but it leveled off after menopause.

Senior author Pankaj Arora explained in a press release that the study emphasizes the part that heredity plays in the variations in hypertension between the sexes.

Future studies, according to Arora, ought to focus on the particular genetic variants associated with SBP in each sex. Examining the roles played by these genetic variations will help us better understand the processes regulating SBP that are particular to each sex, as well as the potential for sex-specific drug responses.

The team has been aware of the gender differences in cardiovascular disease for many years, and Arora concluded that research of this kind points to a biological basis for understanding these variations.

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