Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Why heart attacks run in families: Genetics

My late Mom have heart attack at 45, my youngest sister have heart attack at 30. Yes, according to my research, heart disease have something to do with Genes or DNA.

Before Nano-Tech can found a solution to it, the best things to do is to prevent it from happening.

The Most important things is Drink 8 glasses of filters water a day atleast.

Why heart attacks run in families: Genetics
By Steve Sternberg, USA TODAY
For years, the Steffensen family of Buffalo Center, Iowa, blamed heaping helpings of what they call "good old Iowa farm cooking" for a more distressing family tradition: heart attacks.

Don Steffensen's heart nearly quit while he was duck hunting with friends when he was 62. When his doctors learned that he and eight of his 11 siblings had heart problems, they recruited the family for a landmark genetic analysis. Their two-year study shifted some of the blame for the family's misfortune from meat, potatoes and gravy to a faulty gene.

"They're hard-wired to have a heart attack," says Eric Topol of the Cleveland Clinic, who led the team that identified the abnormality.

The good news is that more healthful living can literally change a person's genetic destiny by staving off a gene's ill effects for years, maybe even decades.

"Everyone right now is pretty doggone glad we did it, I can tell you," Steffensen says of the family's participation in the research. "It enlightened us. It wasn't just the food."

The Cleveland Clinic study is just one of several worldwide devoted to teasing out why heart attacks run in families and how to prevent them. Geneticists at the Icelandic company deCode, for instance, have identified a different genetic cause of heart attacks that may be remedied with a drug now in human trials.

Unlike the Steffensen study, which aimed to identify a gene in one family that may be implicated in heart attacks in the general population, Icelandic researchers carried out a painstaking genetic analysis of a large population. They used hundreds of heart attack patients and family members in Iceland to look for any genes that might be related to heart attacks.

The analysis, made possible by the company's countrywide access to genetic information, identified the FLAP gene, which appears to double a person's heart disease risk.

"The genetic factors we're working on are dramatically different than the ones Eric Topol is working on," says deCode CEO Kari Stefansson. "We're working on heart attacks as a public health problem."

It would be a mistake to pin all the blame for heart disease on genetics, Topol cautions.

Unlike so-called single-gene disorders such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia, heart attacks result from a mix of genetic factors and behaviors. No medicine can counter the long-term cumulative effects of a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and a high-salt, high-fat diet. That's why doctors place so much emphasis on eliminating risk factors and controlling diabetes.

For the Steffensens and others like them, the benefit of knowing that they are vulnerable to heart attacks comes not from having a medicine that can lower their risk, but from a test result that permits them to be proactive and live a heart-healthy life.

"We might not be able to eliminate the risk, but we should be able to forestall it," Topol says. "We can change natural history."

For Steffensen's son, Mark, 38, who has a high-pressure job in New York's financial district and is the father of two young children, it's a comforting notion. He eats healthful food and exercises.

Knowing that his two children, Zoe, 4, and Ian, 1½, may share Dad's genetic susceptibility, Steffensen has all but eliminated visits to McDonald's —"Sure, we go once in a while. It's a treat for the kids" — and has begun to think about prevention.

"Will I have my kids tested?" he says. "The answer to that is yes."

Steffensens' genes studied

The Cleveland Clinic's foray into the heart disease genetics, a project called Gene Quest, began in the mid-'90s. Don Steffensen volunteered in 2002. During one of his routine visits for advanced cardiac care, his wife overheard doctors talking about their genetic research. "My wife said, 'You'd better talk to them about getting into this thing,' " Steffensen says. Read More... - Why heart attacks run in families: Genetics

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