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New study reveals that high blood pressure is often shared between couples
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Myra Patrick
Blood pressure test being performed

New research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, co-led by the Emory Global Diabetes Research Center’s Jithin Sam Varghese, Ph.D., research assistant professor at Emory University, finds that if one spouse or partner within a heterosexual relationship has high blood pressure, the other often does too.

Previous studies have explored the union of high blood pressure and other diseases in a single country setting or used small regional samples. However the researchers of this study investigated whether heterosexual partners in the U.S., England, China, and India mirrored each other’s high blood-pressure status.

“Our study is the first to examine the union of high blood pressure within couples from both high- and middle-income countries,” says Varghese. “We wanted to see if many married couples who often have the same interests, living environment, lifestyle habits and health outcomes also share high blood pressure.”

The researchers analyzed 3,989 U.S. couples, 1,086 English couples, 6,514 Chinese couples and 22,389 Indian couples using cross-sectional data – capturing a single point in time – taken from studies of aging representative of populations across entire countries. Participants considered to have high blood pressure had one of the following: Systolic greater than 140 mm Hg; diastolic greater than 90 mm Hg, or a history of high blood pressure as reported by a health care provider.

The findings include:

  • The rate of both spouses or partners having high blood pressure was about 47% in England; 38% in the U.S.; 21% in China and 20% in India.
  • Compared to wives married to husbands without high blood pressure, wives whose husbands had high blood pressure were 9% more likely to have high blood pressure in the U.S. and England, 19% more likely in India and 26% more likely in China.
  • Within each country, similar associations were observed for husbands. No gender differences in associations were observed when comparing associations between husbands and wives.

These findings highlight the potential of using couple-based interventions for high blood pressure diagnosis and management, such as couple-based screening, skills training or joint participation in programs.

“Identifying ways to help couples address shared risk factors for cardiovascular disease may provide new approaches for preventing and treating hypertension,” says Jared Reis, Ph.D., the deputy branch chief for cardiovascular epidemiology at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

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