Genetically determined blood pressure, antihypertensive drug classes, and risk of stroke subtypes

Neurology. 2020 Jul 28;95(4):e353-e361. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000009814. Epub 2020 Jul 1.


Objective: We employed Mendelian randomization to explore whether the effects of blood pressure (BP) and BP-lowering through different antihypertensive drug classes on stroke risk vary by stroke etiology.

Methods: We selected genetic variants associated with systolic and diastolic BP and BP-lowering variants in genes encoding antihypertensive drug targets from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) on 757,601 individuals. Applying 2-sample Mendelian randomization, we examined associations with any stroke (67,162 cases; 454,450 controls), ischemic stroke and its subtypes (large artery, cardioembolic, small vessel stroke), intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH, deep and lobar), and the related small vessel disease phenotype of white matter hyperintensities (WMH).

Results: Genetic predisposition to higher systolic and diastolic BP was associated with higher risk of any stroke, ischemic stroke, and ICH. We found associations between genetically determined BP and all ischemic stroke subtypes with a higher risk of large artery and small vessel stroke compared to cardioembolic stroke, as well as associations with deep, but not lobar ICH. Genetic proxies for calcium channel blockers, but not β-blockers, were associated with lower risk of any stroke and ischemic stroke. Proxies for calcium channel blockers showed particularly strong associations with small vessel stroke and the related radiologic phenotype of WMH.

Conclusions: This study supports a causal role of hypertension in all major stroke subtypes except lobar ICH. We find differences in the effects of BP and BP-lowering through antihypertensive drug classes between stroke subtypes and identify calcium channel blockade as a promising strategy for preventing manifestations of cerebral small vessel disease.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Blood Pressure / genetics
  • Cerebral Small Vessel Diseases / etiology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications*
  • Hypertension / genetics*
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis
  • Stroke / drug therapy*
  • Stroke / etiology*


  • Antihypertensive Agents