Research shows new cause of heart disease, high blood pressure

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Researchers from St George’s University and other institutions discovered 119 genetic regions linked to the size and shape of blood vessels in the retina, a layer at the back of the eye.

Scientists have known for some time that the size and shape of blood vessels in the retina are associated with several health conditions like diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

However, it has been unclear how genetics play a role in the architecture of these vessels.

The team used artificial intelligence technology and genome-wide association study (GWAS), and analyzed retinal images from nearly 53,000 people in the UK Biobank.

They identified 119 genomic regions linked to retinal blood vessel size and shape, with 89 linked to arterial twisting.

The twisting and turning of retinal arteries, which was the most genetically determined feature, also caused high diastolic blood pressure and heart disease.

The findings could potentially pave the way for new treatments in the future.

The research is part of the wider effort to identify biomarkers of cardiovascular diseases, particularly with non-invasive imaging tools.

Blood vessels in the retina share many characteristics with blood vessels in the brain, heart, and kidneys, which can also be observed through non-invasive imaging methods.

By studying blood vessels in the retina, the researchers could gain insights into the health of other parts of the body, potentially enabling earlier diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases.

The study’s use of AI is particularly notable as it enabled the team to quickly and automatically distinguish between different types of blood vessels and measure their width and extent.

The use of AI in healthcare and research has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, particularly in the image and data analysis.

AI technology allows researchers to analyze large volumes of data quickly and accurately, enabling them to identify patterns and connections that would be difficult or impossible to discern manually.

This could lead to more targeted treatments and personalized medicine in the future.

Overall, the study highlights the importance of genetics in determining the characteristics of blood vessels in the retina, and how this could be used as a biomarker for cardiovascular diseases.

The use of AI and GWAS in the study demonstrates the potential of these technologies to enable more accurate and personalized healthcare in the future.

Maintaining good heart and blood pressure health is crucial for overall well-being. Here are some ways to protect your heart and blood pressure health:

Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity can help lower blood pressure, strengthen the heart and improve overall cardiovascular health. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.

Eat a healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help reduce the risk of heart disease and hypertension. Limit your intake of processed foods, saturated and trans fats, and added sugars.

Manage stress: Stress can cause an increase in blood pressure, which can put a strain on the heart. Practice stress management techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.

Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease. Aim for a healthy weight through a combination of healthy eating and regular physical activity.

Quit smoking: Smoking can cause damage to the heart and blood vessels, leading to a higher risk of heart disease and hypertension. Quitting smoking can have immediate benefits for the heart and overall health.

Limit alcohol intake: Drinking too much alcohol can increase blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. Men should aim for no more than two drinks per day, and women should aim for no more than one drink per day.

Get regular check-ups: Regular check-ups with your doctor can help monitor blood pressure and identify any potential heart health issues early on.

By adopting these healthy habits, you can help protect your heart and blood pressure health and reduce the risk of developing heart disease, hypertension, and other related conditions.

If you care about heart health, please read studies that apple juice could benefit your heart health, and Yogurt may help lower the death risks in heart disease.

For more information about blood pressure, please see recent studies that early time-restricted eating could help improve blood pressure, and results showing plant-based foods could benefit people with high blood pressure.

The study was conducted by Professor Christopher Owen et al and published in PLOS Genetics.

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