Gene Influences Heart Disease And Stroke Risk Factors

DALLAS, Feb. 11 -- Researchers may have pieced together part of the puzzle about why some individuals with many risk factors for atherosclerosis never develop heart disease and stroke while others with few risk factors do.

Their findings are reported this month's Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology: Journal of the American Heart Association.

According to the study's lead author, Sharon L.R. Kardia, M.D., and colleagues at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, the gene responsible for regulating levels of certain fats in the bloodstream also appears to determine how much influence cholesterol and other risk factors have on atherosclerosis, the disease process that leads to heart attacks and strokes.

The gene that Kardia and her colleagues say affects the influence of risk factors is apolipoprotein E (Apo E). Apo E is a protein on the "good" cholesterol and "bad" cholesterol in the blood which helps deliver the cholesterol to the liver and elsewhere in the body.

"Whether a risk is really a risk factor for a particular individual may be determined in part by the form of their Apo E gene," she says. The findings are in line with the current understanding of the complexity of heart disease and stroke because not everyone with many risk factors develops cardiovascular disease.

Kardia, assistant professor of epidemiology, examined the relationship between risk factors, atherosclerosis, and the genetic makeup of 169 women and 160 men who were participants in the Rochester Family Heart Study.

Atherosclerosis is a disease in which calcium, along with fats and cholesterol, collect in the blood vessel to form plaques. The plaques can block blood flow to the heart or brain, triggering a heart attack or stroke. Participants had no prior signs of heart disease and had not suffered a stroke. All participants were under 60 years of age.

To detect early signs

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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