Scientists find gene that shapes heart-attack risk

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Researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine have discovered a gene that plays a significant role in determining the risk of developing heart attacks, deadly aneurysms, and other vascular diseases.

Understanding the underlying causes of these diseases can lead to new treatments and preventive measures, improving the quality of people’s lives.

Lifestyle choices like smoking, lack of exercise, and unhealthy diets, contribute to vascular diseases such as coronary artery disease, which is a leading cause of death worldwide. However, there is also a genetic factor.

Understanding the effects of genetic factors on these diseases has been a challenge for scientists because the changes that occur in blood vessels are complex.

The researchers identified a gene called FHL5 that is responsible for the regulation of an entire network of genes and processes related to vascular disease.

FHL5 works like a general, directing the deployment of troops in a battle. It’s an attractive molecule for scientists because it can help identify targetable pathways for new treatments or prognostic tools.

The researchers studied the effects of the FHL5-encoded protein on smooth muscle cells that form the structure of arteries.

They discovered that when FHL5 was too active, it caused the cells to calcify, leading to the accumulation of calcium in the arteries, which is a significant step in atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is the buildup of harmful plaque in the arteries that can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and other serious health problems.

The excess gene activity also contributed to other cellular activities related to vascular disease.

But that’s not all; FHL5 also has far-reaching effects on other genes and cellular processes that cause the remodeling of arteries over time.

The researchers hope that by mapping the downstream effectors of vascular remodeling, they can shed light on preventative mechanisms.

By studying its regulatory network, they believe they can explain its link to several vascular diseases.

This discovery gives scientists new insights into the genetic factors that contribute to vascular diseases and provides an attractive and influential target as they develop new treatments and work to prevent the harmful changes that cause these diseases.

The team hopes this work serves as a template for future studies to investigate the functional consequences of perturbing key regulators in the vessel wall.

In conclusion, the discovery of FHL5’s role in the regulation of genes and processes related to the vascular disease can help in developing new treatments and preventive measures.

While lifestyle choices play a significant role in the development of these diseases, genetic factors cannot be ignored, and understanding their effects can lead to better health outcomes for people.

How to prevent heart attacks

Preventing heart attacks requires a combination of lifestyle changes and medical management, depending on a person’s individual risk factors. Here are some ways to reduce the risk of heart attack:

Quit smoking: Smoking increases the risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases. Quitting smoking is the most important step a person can take to improve their heart health.

Manage blood pressure: High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart attack. A person should aim to keep their blood pressure below 130/80 mm Hg through diet, exercise, and medication if necessary.

Control cholesterol levels: High levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol, can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart attack.

Managing cholesterol through a healthy diet, exercise, and medication if necessary can help reduce this risk.

Eat a heart-healthy diet: Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help reduce the risk of a heart attack.

Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help improve heart health by lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol levels, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of a heart attack. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help reduce this risk.

Manage diabetes: Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart attack. People with diabetes should work closely with their healthcare team to manage their blood sugar levels and reduce their risk of heart disease.

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If you care about heart health, please read studies about how eating eggs can help reduce heart disease risk, and Vitamin K2 could help reduce heart disease risk.

The study was conducted by Doris Wong et al and published in Circulation Research.

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