People with multiple sclerosis are 48 percent more likely to have high blood pressure compared to the general population — and to people with other demyelinating diseases, a new study reports. Its researchers also emphasize that hypertension is already linked to poorer outcomes in MS patients.
The study, “Cardiovascular conditions in persons with multiple sclerosis, neuromyelitis optica and transverse myelitis,” was published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.
Like all demyelinating diseases, MS is marked by damage to the protective cover – called myelin – that surrounds nerve fibers in the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord.
Two other diseases, neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD), and transverse myelitis (TM), are also demyelinating disorders of the central nervous system. But the three have widely different clinical characteristics, and comorbidities — while common in MS patients — have not been studied extensively in NMOSD and TM.
Researchers with Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, investigated the prevalence of cardiovascular conditions like hypertension in a group of MS, NMOSD, and TM patients in the U.S. Cardiovascular conditions, even those that develop in people with other diseases (as a comorbidity), are generally considered modifiable through diet and exercise. But few large-scale studies have looked into their prevalence or burden in people with demyelinating diseases.
Those that have suggest that cardiovascular conditions are either as prevalent or more prevalent in people with MS and NMOSD than healthy people.
Using a case-control study (people enrolled in the Accelerated Cure Project and treated at special clinics), the research team compared the burden of several cardiovascular-associated diseases — type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hyperlipidemia (high levels of fat in blood, or high cholesterol), and hypertension (high blood pressure) — in 1,548 MS patients, 306 NMOSD patients, and 145 people with TM, and then compared findings with those of 677 controls without a demyelinating disease.
Researchers adjusted cardiovascular risk by controlling the data for such known risk factors as demographics, smoking history, obesity, family history, and presence of other cardiovascular conditions.
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