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Genes play a role in heart function -- May determine who develops heart failure

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Genes play a significant role in heart function, and may partly determine who develops the most common form of heart failure, report researchers from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and colleagues in this month's Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Association.

"We asked the question what determines differences in heart function from person to person," said Dalane W. Kitzman, M.D., a cardiologist from Wake Forest. "We found a significant portion is actually determined by your genes who is your mother and father. Gene influences were as powerful or even more so than blood pressure level, age, gender, weight, where you live or whether you have diabetes."

Also participating in the research were the University of Minnesota, Boston University School of Medicine, University of Alabama-Birmingham, University of Utah, Washington University School of Medicine and Weill Medical College of Cornell University. In their study of 574 groups of siblings, the researchers used ultrasound to measure how efficiently participants' hearts refilled with blood after each squeezing heart beat. They found that family relationships explained a significant portion as much as half of variability in the heart's filling, which is known as diastolic function. This was the first study to examine the relationship between heart function and heart structure within family members.

"Our research suggests that when you're born your diastolic function may already be programmed," said Kitzman. "A significant part of whether you have good, moderate or poor diastolic function may be determined by genes."

Significantly impaired diastolic function is associated with hypertension, coronary artery disease and the most common type of congestive heart failure. The study included primarily persons with hypertension it is known that many such patients eventually develop congestive heart failure. The researchers speculate that the effects
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Contact: Karen Richardson
krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4453
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
5-Sep-2002


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