Scientists discover genetic regions linked to coronary artery disease

A recent analysis of data from more than 190,000 individuals has discovered 15 new genetic regions that may contribute to the development of coronary artery disease.

The study, which was published in the journal Nature Genetics, is part of a collective project known as the the genome-wide association studies (GWAS), which was conceived in 2005. So far, GWAS has found 46 genetic regions attributed to coronary artery disease. Of these 46 regions, nearly 35 percent of are tied to risk factors like high levels of LDL, or “bad cholesterol,” and hypertension.

Coronary artery disease, according to the National Institutes of Health, is when the blood vessels become clogged with a plaque-like substance known as cholesterol. This causes a hardening of the arteries and reduces the flow of oxygen and blood to the heart, which can lead to angina or heart attack.

The study also revealed that some people may develop coronary artery disease because of their genetic disposition for inflammation. The notion of inflammation being a risk factor for coronary artery disease is debated among medical professionals.

“Perhaps the most interesting results of this study show that some people may be born with a predisposition to the development of coronary atherosclerosis because they have inherited mutations in some key genes related to inflammation,” said study author Themistocles Assimes, M.D., Ph.D. “There has been much debate as to whether inflammation seen in plaque buildup in heart vessels is a cause or a consequence of the plaques themselves.”

Risk factor control
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are numerous controllable risk factors for heart disease. Smoking can contribute to atherosclerosis, or the buildup of a fatty wax-like substance in the arteries, and it causes increased levels of carbon monoxide in the blood, which reduce the amount of oxygen reaching the heart, and in turn raise blood pressure.

The CDC notes that good exercise habits can help cut down on cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. A diet rich in cholesterol, sodium and saturated fats can also be a contributor to coronary artery disease. Omega-3 fatty acids may be able to help prevent atherosclerosis, according to the University of Maryland. Clinical studies have suggested that omega-3s may help reduce hypertension and raise HDL or “good” cholesterol, while lowering levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. People can get omega-3s from chia seeds, flax milk and an Omegakrill supplement from Dr. Newton’s Naturals.

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