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Researchers established a linked between hypertension and valve disorder

Photo: Hypertension linked to valve disorder
For the first time, a strong link has been established between high blood pressure and the most common heart valve disorder in high-income countries.

Researchers in the UK have established a strong link between high blood pressure and the most common heart valve disorder in Australia.

A study of 5.5 million adults, published in journal PLOS Medicine, has found hypertension in early life is associated with a significantly greater future risk of mitral regurgitation, a condition which makes the heart less efficient at pumping blood around the body. Severe cases can lead to heart failure.

Lead author Professor Kazem Rahimi at The George Insitute UK says the findings are likely to have significant implications for medical policy and practice around the world.
"Our research suggests this common and disabling valve disorder is not an inevitable consequence of ageing, as previously assumed, but may be preventable," said Professor Rahimi.

To investigate the relationship between blood pressure (BP) and the risk of mitral regurgitation researchers at the George Institute analysed electronic health records from the United Kingdom Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) from January 1990 to December 2015.

At the 10-year follow-up, 28,655 adults (0.52 per cent) were diagnosed with mitral regurgitation.

According to the research paper, systolic blood pressure (SBP) was continuously related to the risk of mitral regurgitation.

"Each 20 mmHg increment in SBP was associated with a 26 per cent higher risk of mitral regurgitation," wrote the authors.

"Long-term exposure to elevated BP across its whole spectrum is associated with an increased risk of primary and secondary mitral regurgitation. These findings suggest that BP control may be of importance in the prevention of mitral regurgitation," they concluded.

Mitral regurgitation leads to a backflow of blood into the heart, causing symptoms such as shortness of breath, tiredness, dizziness and chest pain.

"So it's a leaking mitral valve which is the valve on the left side of the heart between the atrium and the ventricle, it's a very important valve too," said cardiologist Dr Garry Jennings AO.

The Heart Foundation's Chief Medical Advisor says the findings of this new study are very plausible.

"People with high blood pressure get big hearts and therefore that might be stretching the valve or the scaffolding for the valve. People with high blood pressure also get heart attacks and heart failure and again that's associated with a big heart which could enlarge the valve and cause the flaps not to seal properly," Dr Jennings explained.

He says keeping blood pressure in check earlier in life is likely to reduce the risk of needing heart surgery later in life to fix this common valve problem.

"Don't ignore your blood pressure, do all the lifestyle things that are proven to stop it increasing with age; there is nothing inevitable about your blood pressure getting higher as you get older."

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