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The Contribution of Risk Factors to Blood Pressure Heritability Estimates in Young Adults: The East Flanders Prospective Twin Study

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 February 2012

Maurice P. A. Zeegers*
Affiliation:
Maastricht University, Department of Epidemiology, Maastricht, the Netherlands; Comprehensive Cancer Institute Limburg, Department of General Practice, Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgiummpa.zeegers@epid.unimaas.nl
Fruhling Rijsdijk
Affiliation:
Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, United Kingdom
Pak Sham
Affiliation:
Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, United Kingdom; Department of Psychiatry, University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong, China
Robert Fagard
Affiliation:
Hypertension and Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Unit, Faculty of Medicine, Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
Marij Gielen
Affiliation:
Department of Population Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands
Peter W. de Leeuw
Affiliation:
Department of Medicine, University Hospital Maastricht, the Netherlands
Robert Vlietinck
Affiliation:
Department of Population Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands
*
*Address for correspondence: Maurice Zeegers, Maastricht University, Department of Epidemiology, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.

Abstract

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The heritability of blood pressure estimated in previous studies may be confounded by the influence of potential blood pressure risk factors. We applied the classical twin design to estimate the contribution of these covariates to blood pressure heritability. The study consisted of 173 dizygotic and 251 monozygotic twin pairs aged 18–34 years, randomly selected from the East Flanders Prospective Twin Survey. In a standardized examination, blood pressure and anthropometry was measured, a questionnaire was completed, and a fasting blood sample was taken. In univariate and bivariate modeling, diastolic and systolic heritability were estimated both unadjusted and adjusted for potential risk factors. Also, covariate interaction was modeled. Bivariate analysis gave heritability estimates of 0.63 (95%CI 0.55–0.59), 0.74 (95%CI: 0.68–0.79), and 0.78 (95%CI: 0.70–0.84) for diastolic, systolic, and cross-trait heritability, respectively. The remaining variances could be attributed to unique environmental influences. These heritability estimates did not change substantially in univariate analyses or after adjustment for risk factors. A sex-limitation model showed that the heritability estimates for women were significantly higher than for men, but the same genetic factors were operating across sexes. Sex and cigarette smoking appeared to be statistically significant interaction terms. The heritability of blood pressure is relatively high in young adults. Potential risk factors of blood pressure do not appear to confound the heritability estimates. However, gene by sex by smoking interaction is indicated.

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