03/31/2010 - Articles

Genetic markers do not predict heart disease risk in women

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD


Genetic factors are likely to influence a person’s risk of heart disease, including heart attack. As genetic technology becomes more widely available, it is possible that a test might be developed that could predict heart disease risk. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have tried out this approach by compiling genetic risk scores based upon a number of marker genes uncovered by genomic-based research into heart disease.

They applied these to a group of nearly 20,000 women taking part in the Women’s Genome Health Study, following them up for around 12 years. During this time 777 heart disease events occurred, including 199 heart attacks, 203 strokes, 63 cardiovascular deaths and 312 treatments for blocked coronary arteries.

After adjusting for the traditional heart disease risk factors, the genetic risk factor did not have an influence on heart disease outcomes. However, family history of premature heart attack was a risk factor in its own right, independent of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and so on. The researchers say that genomic science in heart disease is not predictive enough at the present time and genome-wide testing will not be accurate (a point to note, since such tests are becoming more widely available). Researchers need to keep looking for more accurate biomarkers of heart disease. The study also underlines the importance of the traditional risk factors, and family history, in heart disease. It is these that patients and doctors should keep an eye on and leave genetic marker tests till the science is more fully developed.



Paynter NP et al Association between a literature-based genetic risk score and cardiovascular events in women Journal of the American Medical Association February 17 2010;303:631-637


Created on: 03/31/2010
Reviewed on: 03/31/2010

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