Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure May Increase the Risk of Fibroids

Researchers found that treating high blood pressure with a specific medication lowered the risk of fibroid development by nearly 50%.

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that begin developing in the uterus's muscle cells. Though some fibroids are small and may not cause any symptoms, they can grow larger, even up to the size of a grapefruit. Larger fibroids or multiple growths can lead to abnormal uterine bleeding, pelvic pain, and disruption of organs near the uterus, such as the intestines and bladder.

Scientists estimate that up to 70% of women will develop fibroids before their 50th birthday. Even though fibroids are common, the exact cause of the condition is unknown. Health experts believe that hormones such as estrogen, genetics, and high stress levels may play a role, but other factors that might increase the risk of fibroids are unclear.

In a new study published in JAMA Network Open, researchers from Kaiser Permanente took a closer look at whether hypertension, or high blood pressure, could be a fibroid risk factor.

The scientists analyzed the data from 2,570 middle-aged women without a history of fibroids enrolled in the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN). They collected information about blood pressure status, biomarkers for heart disease such as cholesterol levels and C-reactive protein, and whether participants with high blood pressure were treating the condition.

During the study period, 20% of the participants reported developing a new fibroid. The research team found that those with untreated high blood pressure were nearly 20% more likely to develop a fibroid than women without hypertension.

However, those who treated their high blood pressure cut their risk of fibroids by 37%.

The researchers also found that participants treating hypertension with ACE inhibitors — medications that lower blood pressure by relaxing blood veins and arteries — had a 48% lower risk of fibroids compared to women without high blood pressure.

Moreover, participants who developed hypertension for the first time during the study period were 45% more likely to develop fibroids.

While it's unclear why ACE inhibitors may lower the risk of fibroids, the researchers suggest that the medication could impact specific pathways in the body, resulting in a protective effect.

While more research is needed to understand the relationship between high blood pressure and fibroids, the study's findings may have revealed another potential risk factor for this common gynecological condition.

In a press release, lead author Susanna Mitro, Ph.D., a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research (DOR), said, "Finding a potential mechanism by which hypertension may increase fibroid risk could lead to new treatment options for fibroids, which would be a big step forward. This study is a first step that does not necessarily support a change in medical practice, but does confirm in a high-quality way that hypertension increases risk of fibroids."

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