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Genetics may Play Role in Heart Health

More people in the Western world die of heart disease than of any other cause, led by heart attacks and strokes that, in America, together kill// roughly 900,000 people a year.

Another 70 million Americans live with heart disease, says Benjamin D. Horne, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at LDS Hospital.

Today, Horne and John A. Carlquist, co-director of LDS Hospital cardiovascular research, will take phoned-in questions about genetics and heart disease from 10 a.m. to noon during the Deseret Morning News/Intermountain Health Hotline.

Horne notes that while most heart attacks and strokes strike people 65 and older, the number in younger patients has increased. And each year, more than 6 million people are hospitalized in America because of cardiovascular disease. The financial cost is estimated at about $403 billion, including medical expenses and lost work.

LDS Hospital researchers hope to unravel some of the mysteries of heart attack and early-onset coronary-artery disease, which means before 55 in males and 65 in women. For conditions like aortic valve disease or mitral valve disease, onset before age 50 is considered early.

They're building on studies that have identified a few genetic variations related to early-onset disease. "There is quite a plethora of candidate genes that have been looked at over a couple of decades in terms of predicting onset of heart attack," Horne says.

It's a complicated process and often an initial finding of a gene associated with heart attack or coronary disease has been hard to replicate. There are exceptions. In a couple of diseases, variants associated with the higher risk of heart attack have been identified. Most, though, have not.

The Utah researchers are taking a couple of approaches. They're looking at people who are unrelated to each other but share a history of early-onset heart attack, comparing their genetic markers to another group
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