University of Florida researchers study possible genetic link to dysfunctional coronary arteries in women

Gainesville, FL --- Cardiologists have spent decades puzzling over what causes chest pain in many of their female patients. That's because the majority of women who complain of severe discomfort actually have coronary arteries that appear relatively normal in X-ray images of the heart.

Now University of Florida researchers report that many of these women have a genetic variation that could influence their blood vessels' ability to function properly -- a theoretical cause of their distress. They released their findings Tuesday at the American College of Cardiology's 50th Annual Scientific Session in Orlando.

"One goal of our research is to try to determine whether there are factors in the lining of the coronary arteries that may be contributing to this chest pain syndrome," said Dr. Daniel Pauly, an assistant professor in the division of cardiovascular medicine at UF's College of Medicine. "These women might not have any visible narrowing of the large coronary arteries by angiography, but we're trying to determine whether their vessels are functioning abnormally.

"This type of chest pain is a significant cause of women seeking medical attention," he added. "And because many seek medical attention or even seek emergency room attention, it is a significant cost burden for the health-care system."

Of those who visit a doctor for symptoms that suggest heart disease, women are much more likely than men to have coronary arteries free of obvious fatty obstructions that might account for their chest pain, Pauly said. In fact, only 30 percent or so of the women who undergo heart catheterization each year have atherosclerosis, compared with 85 percent of men who have the same procedure.

In the early 1970s, physicians labeled this condition "syndrome X." These women often are disabled by their recurrent symptoms. Today, doctors are still not sure how best to treat them -- or even diagnose their condition. A further complication: Some wo

Contact: Melanie Fridl Ross
University of Florida

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