Scientists supported through the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Branch recently found that men with a neurological condition called FXTAS are also at high risk for high blood pressure, which in turn can increase the risk of heart disease, dementia, and stroke. FXTAS, is a neurological disease that often causes tremor, memory deficiency, and psychiatric symptoms. It is caused by a premutation form of the FMR1 gene. Individuals with the fully mutated form of the FMR1 gene have symptoms of Fragile X syndrome, a condition that often includes intellectual and developmental disability. Individuals with the premutation form of FMR1 often have no symptoms in childhood, but may develop FXTAS later in life.
To determine if high blood pressure was associated with FXTAS, scientists measured blood pressure in nearly 400 men. The study included 100 men with FXTAS, about 100 men with the FMR1 premutation who had not yet developed FXTAS, and more than 180 men without the FMR1 premutation.
The researchers discovered that men with FXTAS were, on average, three times more likely to develop hypertension compared with men who did not carry the FMR1 premutation. This risk extended only to men who developed FXTAS, however. Men without FXTAS, but who had the premutation, were not significantly more likely to have hypertension. The scientists accounted for the age of the subjects in the study, because hypertension is more likely to occur in older men. The results indicate that physicians who care for men with FXTAS should frequently monitor blood pressure as part of their normal treatment (PMID: 22528549).