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Hypertension: Looking beyond the classic risk factors

A recent study examines the relationship between where people live and the risk of developing hypertension and metabolic syndrome. The authors conclude that the location and type of home could play a significant role.

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News Desk |

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects almost 1 in 3 adults in the United States. Hypertension forms part of metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of conditions that also includes excess body fat around the waist, high blood sugar levels, and abnormal levels of cholesterol or triglyceride in the blood.

Risk factors for metabolic syndrome include obesity, increasing age, genetics, and diabetes. The above are also risk factors for hypertension, as are smoking, dietary factors, such as high salt intake, drinking too much alcohol, and stress.

The authors believe that this is most likely because of other factors, aside from pollution, that go hand in hand with living in these types of complexes.

Because both hypertension and metabolic syndrome affect a growing number of people, understanding the range of factors that leads to these conditions is vital.

Some researchers are investigating the potential impact of where we live. In this vein, scientists from the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences and Vytautas Magnus University, also in Lithuania, recently published new findings in the Journal of Public Health.

Read more: Can hypertension treatment slow down Alzheimer’s progression?

Air pollution and hypertension

Earlier studies investigating exposure to air pollution and its relationship with hypertension produced conflicting results. However, a meta-analysis of 17 studies published in the journal Hypertension in 2016 concluded: “Our results suggest that short-term or long-term exposure to some air pollutants may increase the risk of hypertension.”

The authors of the latest study, which uses data from Kaunas, in Lithuania, paid particular attention to average exposure to ambient air pollution and the distance to green spaces and major roads. They also examined differences between living in multifamily homes, such as blocks of flats, and private single-family homes.

Hypertension and metabolic syndrome affect a growing number of people, understanding the range of factors that leads to these conditions is vital.

Specifically, they looked for links between these factors and the risk of developing arterial hypertension and certain measures of metabolic syndrome: reduced levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL, or “good,” cholesterol), high triglyceride levels, obesity, and elevated blood sugar.

The study utilized data from three questionnaires taken by a total of 1,354 individuals; all of these participants had lived at the same location throughout the 10-year duration of the study. The questions covered factors such as education level, alcohol consumption, smoking status, level of physical activity, blood pressure medication, and lipid-lowering treatment.

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Multifamily living and increased risk

Importantly, the scientists found that the impact of traffic-related exposure to air pollution was only significant for those who lived in multifamily homes. For individuals residing in single-family homes, their risk for hypertension did not increase, even if they were exposed to the same level of pollution as those in multifamily homes.

Earlier studies investigating exposure to air pollution and its relationship with hypertension produced conflicting results.

The authors believe that this is most likely because of other factors, aside from pollution, that go hand in hand with living in these types of complexes. For instance, living in relatively cramped conditions in a built-up environment might play an independent role in increasing risk.

Read more: How some fruits can lower blood pressure

On the other side of the coin, the researchers found a positive effect of living near public green spaces. The authors write that “The risk of the incidence of [arterial hypertension] was higher for persons living further than 300 meters from a [green space].”

“Our research results enable us to say that we should regulate as much as possible the living space for one person in multifamily houses, improve the noise insulation of apartments, and promote the development of green spaces in multifamily houses.”