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Dr. Adriana M. Hung meets with patient Rodney Stewart at the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System. (Photo by Brandon Lunday)

MVP data leads to new finding on ‘resistant hypertension’

November 28, 2017

By Tristan Horrom
VA Research Communications

Those with resistant hypertension had a 23 percent higher risk of heart attack.

Using data from the Million Veteran Program, VA researchers found that a blood pressure condition called resistant hypertension can increase the risk of cardiovascular problems and kidney failure.

Resistant hypertension is “a condition that increases cardiovascular risk in a tremendous way,” says Dr. Adriana M. Hung, one of the study’s lead investigators. Her group focuses on kidney disease and the impact of high blood pressure and diabetes on kidney function.

The study team included researchers from the Memphis and Nashville VA medical centers. They presented their findings earlier this month at Kidney Week 2017, a conference hosted by the American Society of Nephrology.


The researchers relied on MVP data. They identified more than 27,000 Veterans with resistant hypertension. Resistant hypertension is high blood pressure that remains above 140 over 90 even when the patient is taking three blood pressure drugs. Patients whose blood pressure has been lowered below this threshold using four or more drugs are also considered to have the condition.

The researchers compared these patients to a group of over 268,000 Veterans with high blood pressure but not resistant hypertension. They found that those with resistant hypertension had a 23 percent higher risk of heart attack than those without. They also had a 31 percent higher risk of stroke. The resistant hypertension group had a whopping 144 percent higher risk for end-stage renal disease, or kidney failure. The condition was not associated with higher risk of death, however.

According to the researchers, better blood pressure control could lower the risk of heart attack and stroke for those with resistant hypertension. More research is needed to explain how this condition is connected to kidney failure, they say.

The team is continuing this research by studying the genetic basis of resistant hypertension. They aim to use MVP data to identify genetic targets that can be treated with medication to better rein in high pressure.

MVP, now with more than 600,000 Veterans enrolled, is one of the world’s largest databases of health and genetic information.

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