Heart attack risk from smoking due to genetics

December 19, 2007

Rochester, N.Y. - December 19, 2007 - Heart attacks among cigarette smokers may have less to do with tobacco than genetics. A common defect in a gene controlling cholesterol metabolism boosts smokers' risk of an early heart attack, according to a new study in Annals of Noninvasive Electrocardiology. The findings also show that smokers without the defect normally have heart attacks no sooner than their non-smoking peers.

Although the link between smoking and heart disease was established decades ago, the reasons for that link were unclear. More recent studies suggest smoking interferes with cholesterol metabolism, lowering smokers' levels of high-density lipoprotein, the good cholesterol that protects against heart-attack risk. An estimated 55 to 60 percent of smokers face the added risk of a defective gene that also lowers levels of the protective high-density lipoprotein. Therefore, the combination of smoking plus a defective gene substantially accentuates the risk of heart attacks in these patients..

Researcher Ilan Goldenberg, M.D., and colleagues were the first to evaluate both smoking history and the genetic trait in heart-attack patients. They found that smokers with the genetic defect had their first heart attack eight to nine years earlier than non-smokers. Smokers with a healthy version of the gene had their first heart attack only three years earlier than non-smokers, a difference the researchers considered non-significant.

"Since the frequency of this 'bad' gene in the general population is about 60 percent, many people who smoke have a high risk of experiencing a heart attack at a young age," Goldenberg said. "This finding should increase awareness for smoking cessation."
-end-
This study is published in Annals of Noninvasive Electrocardiology. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact medicalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net.

Ilan Goldenberg, M.D., is a Research Associate Professor in the Cardiology Unit of the University of Rochester Medical Center's Department of Medicine and the Heart Institute and Neufeld Research Institute at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, Israel. Dr. Goldenberg can be reached for questions at Ilan.Goldenberg@heart.rochester.edu.

The Annals of Noninvasive Electrocardiology is the first journal in an evolving subspecialty that incorporates ongoing advances in the clinical application and technology of traditional and new ECG-based techniques in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiac patients. The publication includes topics related to 12-lead, exercise and high-resolution electrocardiography, arrhythmias, ischemia, repolarization phenomena, heart rate variability, circadian rhythms, bioengineering technology, signal-averaged ECGs, T-wave alternans and automatic external defibrillation. Original research, clinical studies, state-of-the-art reviews, case reports, technical notes, and letters to the editors will be published to meet future demands in this field. For more information, please visit www.blackwellpublishing.com/anec.

Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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