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Blood pressure in young adults may predict heart disease

Having elevated or rising blood pressure in young adulthood may signal a higher risk for heart disease in middle age, a study by researchers at Northwestern University found.

The researchers analyzed blood pressure patterns of about 5,000 men and women who were ages 18 to 30 at the start of the study and had readings taken eight times over 25 years. At the end of the study, nearly 3,500 participants were scanned for calcium buildup in their coronary arteries, which is a risk factor for heart attacks.

People with moderate blood pressure that increased over time or already high blood pressure levels in young adulthood had up to four times the risk of plaque buildup in their heart arteries compared with those who had low and stable blood pressure.


The findings suggest that tracking blood pressure in young adults might improve predictions of heart disease risk and enable earlier intervention with lifestyle changes or treatment.

BOTTOM LINE: A pattern of rising blood pressure in young adulthood might signal a higher risk for heart disease in middle age.

CAUTIONS: The study did not look at whether participants with calcium buildups went on to have heart attacks.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of the American Medical Association, Feb. 5

Tests suggest creatine is safe treatment for Huntington disease

An early trial testing a new treatment to slow the onset of Huntington disease symptoms has shown it’s safe and was tolerated well by most of the small number of participants.

The Massachusetts General Hospital study enrolled 64 participants, 47 of whom were shown through genetic testing to carry the gene mutation that causes the neurodegenerative disease. (Most of the participants chose not to be told whether they carried this mutation, likely to avoid the anxiety of knowing they will develop its disabling symptoms.) The participants were randomly assigned to take 15 grams of the nutritional supplement creatine or placebo twice daily for six months. All participants were then assigned to take creatine for a year to better test its effectiveness.


Creatine was associated with occasional diarrhea and nausea, and 15 participants stopped taking the supplement because of stomach discomfort, its taste, the inconvenience of taking a daily pill, or stress because taking the pill reminded them of their disease risk.

MRI brain scans at the beginning of the study, after six months, and at the end showed that in participants who carried the Huntington mutation, taking creatine slowed brain decay in regions that are affected by the disease.

BOTTOM LINE: Creatine was shown to be safe and was tolerated by most participants, and there are indications it could slow progression of Huntington disease.

CAUTIONS: The study is the first clinical trial of the drug for slowing Huntington disease; further studies are needed to prove its safety and efficacy in a wider group of patients.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Neurology, Feb. 7 online