Genetic Predisposition to High Blood Pressure and Lifestyle Factors: Associations With Midlife Blood Pressure Levels and Cardiovascular Events

Circulation. 2018 Feb 13;137(7):653-661. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.030898. Epub 2017 Dec 18.


Background: High blood pressure (BP) is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), the leading cause of mortality worldwide. Both heritable and lifestyle risk factors contribute to elevated BP levels. We aimed to investigate the extent to which lifestyle factors could offset the effect of an adverse BP genetic profile and its effect on CVD risk.

Methods: We constructed a genetic risk score for high BP by using 314 published BP loci in 277 005 individuals without previous CVD from the UK Biobank study, a prospective cohort of individuals aged 40 to 69 years, with a median of 6.11 years of follow-up. We scored participants according to their lifestyle factors including body mass index, healthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, alcohol consumption, smoking, and urinary sodium excretion levels measured at recruitment. We examined the association between tertiles of genetic risk and tertiles of lifestyle score with BP levels and incident CVD by using linear regression and Cox regression models, respectively.

Results: Healthy lifestyle score was strongly associated with BP (P<10-320) for systolic and diastolic BP and CVD events regardless of the underlying BP genetic risk. Participants with a favorable in comparison with an unfavorable lifestyle (bottom versus top tertile lifestyle score) had 3.6, 3.5, and 3.6 mm Hg lower systolic BP in low, middle, and high genetic risk groups, respectively (P for interaction=0.0006). Similarly, favorable in comparison with unfavorable lifestyle showed 30%, 33%, and 31% lower risk of CVD among participants in low, middle, and high genetic risk groups, respectively (P for interaction=0.99).

Conclusions: Our data further support population-wide efforts to lower BP in the population via lifestyle modification. The advantages and disadvantages of disclosing genetic predisposition to high BP for risk stratification needs careful evaluation.

Keywords: blood pressure; cardiovascular diseases; genetic predisposition to disease; genetics; healthy lifestyle; risk.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood Pressure / genetics*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Diet, Healthy*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Genetic Loci*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / genetics
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors