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New Society-Funded Study Finds that High Blood Pressure and Smoking are Common in Hispanic/Latinx People with MS

July 21, 2021

  • Raising awareness and addressing these factors may reduce the risk of more severe MS
In a study involving 451 Hispanic/Latinx people with MS, nearly 25% had a coexisting “vascular” conditions (related to blood vessels), most commonly high blood pressure and smoking. Many were unaware that they had high blood pressure, which when untreated can lead to heart attacks and stroke. Those with vascular conditions were more likely to have severe problems walking than those without vascular problems. See below for resources to help lower blood pressure and reduce smoking. So much about MS is unpredictable, but these are lifestyle factors you can control.
  • Improving access to quality MS care across the cultural and socioeconomic spectrum means understanding how each group experiences and perceives the disease and identifying factors that limit access to care. There is growing recognition that “comorbidities” – having two or more medical conditions at once – may complicate the diagnosis of MS and also increase disease progression, as well as detract from an individual’s general health and quality of life.
  • A research team supported by the National MS Society and others looked at 451 Hispanic/Latinx people enrolled in a registry established by the Alliance for Research in Hispanic MS. They looked for people who had vascular conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking. They also examined blood pressure readings taken at entry into the registry and at follow-up visits.
  • Nearly 25% of participants had vascular conditions. Smoking and high blood pressure were the most common: smoking in people under the age of 40, and high blood pressure in people over the age of 40. Importantly, only 7% of those who had high blood pressure were aware of it.
  • Those with a vascular comorbidity, including smokers, were nearly twice as likely to need a walking aid as those without these conditions. Those with high blood pressure were nearly three times as likely to need a walking aid as those without high blood pressure.
  • High blood pressure can lead to heart attacks and stroke, but it is treatable. Find out more from the American Heart Association - Lifestyle Chart: What Can I Do To Improve My Blood Pressure? (PDF) | Español (PDF)
  • Quitting, or even reducing smoking can have profound effects on MS. Get tools and tips/ Herramientas y consejos
  • The National MS Society is committed to identifying solutions so that Hispanic/Latinx families affected by MS can live their best lives. Read more
Hypertension and hypertension severity in Hispanics/Latinx with MS” by Michael V Robers, MD (Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix, AZ), Lilyana Amezcua, MD (University of Southern California, Los Angeles) and colleagues is published in the MS Journal (published online July 1, 2021).

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.


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