Q: My mom has hypertension. I know it can be hereditary. What can I do to prevent myself from developing hypertension?

A: Yes, it true, hypertension IS hereditary. However, the genetics of hypertension is complex with no known single gene playing a major role but instead it is attributed to many genes each with mild effects reacting to different environmental stimuli which contribute to developing high blood pressure. Of note, genes also play a role in heart disease, and other related conditions. When reviewing family history, it is likely that families with a history of high blood pressure also share common environments and other potential factors that increase their risk. The risk for high blood pressure can increase even more when heredity combines with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking cigarettes, little to no exercise and eating an unhealthy diet.

To prevent yourself from developing hypertension, research has shown that regular exercise (30 minutes per day), weight loss with a BMI less than 25 kg/m2, adherence to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, modest alcohol intake, and infrequent use of nonnarcotic analgesics are associated with a decreased risk.

Good nutrition is very important for prevention. “Even for people at a healthy weight, a poor diet is associated with major health risks that can cause illness and even death. These include heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer. By making smart food choices, you can help protect yourself from these health problems” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Obesity Trends. 2011. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.HTML). Good nutrition is key for healthy living.

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