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Coronary artery disease and genetics

Coronary artery disease is one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide. It’s the most common type of heart disease. Although there are known risk factors, such as smoking, high cholesterol, and hypertension, numerous studies have shown that genetics play an essential role in the propensity to suffer from this disease.

Below, we reveal what connection coronary artery disease has with genetics. But you will also learn what it consists of, its symptoms, and what factors are considered risk factors in its development.

 

What is coronary artery disease?

It consists of an ailment that occurs when the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart (coronary arteries) narrow and harden, known as atherosclerosis

In this process, fat, cholesterol, and other substances called “plaque” are deposited inside the arteries. Over time, these plaques can narrow the arteries, making it challenging to deliver the amount of oxygen, nutrients, and blood the muscles need. 

 

Atherosclerosis can occur in any artery, but when it appears in the arteries that supply blood to the heart, it’s known as coronary artery disease [1].

There is a greater risk of suffering from this pathology when there’s a family history of having developed it at less than 50 years of age. But advanced age, hypertension, smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, lack of physical activity, and obesity also increase the risk. [2]

 coronary artery disease

Signs and symptoms of coronary artery disease

Coronary artery disease develops silently. These fatty plaques build up over the years until they cause a significant blockage in the arteries or a heart attack. Before this, there may be no symptoms related to the disease to alert us.

As the coronary arteries narrow, the heart receives less and less blood. Therefore, if symptoms do appear, they tend to be increasingly severe or frequent [3] and manifest on exertion of the heart, such as during exercise [1]. The main signs and symptoms of coronary artery disease include the following:

  • Chest pain or pressure usually occurs on the left side or in the middle of the chest and disappears when the triggering factor ends. In some people, especially women, the pain may be felt in the neck, arm, or back and manifests briefly or acutely [3].
  • Shortness of breath: feeling that you cannot inhale oxygen.
  • Fatigue: tiredness caused by decreased blood pumped by the heart.
  •  Heart attack: characteristic symptoms of a heart attack include a feeling of tightness and pain in the chest, shoulders, or arms, shortness of breath, and excessive sweating. Some heart attacks cause no noticeable symptoms [3].

 

Risk factors for coronary artery disease

There is a multitude of factors that can affect the health of the coronary arteries. Some of them are:

  •  Age: at older ages, the likelihood of artery damage and narrowing is greater.
  • Sex: although men are at greater risk of coronary artery disease, the risk in women increases after menopause. 
  •  Smoking: Smoking significantly increases the risk of heart disease, including breathing in smoke from other people who smoke.
  • High cholesterol: the risk of atherosclerosis increases with an excess of bad cholesterol in the blood or with low levels of good cholesterol.
  • High blood pressure: uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to arterial stiffness.
  • Overweight: obesity can lead to diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Stress: too much emotional stress can adversely affect other risk factors for coronary artery disease.
 coronary artery disease

Coronary artery disease and genetics

According to a study published in ‘Nature Cardiovascular Research,’ which began almost two decades ago, up to 60% of the risk of developing coronary arteriosclerosis has a genetic origin. This is related to changes in the activity of many genes that function in networks in various organs. The hormones that process fats are essential in coordinating this activity [4].

 

One way to determine if our DNA contains any genetic variation that increases the risk of coronary artery disease is to take a genetic test. At 24Genetics, we have the complete health test on the market, in which you will not only know your propensity to develop this disease, but you will also have a great deal of information about your predisposition to suffer from many other diseases, as well as a large amount of data of genetic interest Check it out!

 

Bibliography

[1] Coronary artery disease – Healthwise Staff. Medically reviewed by Kathleen Romito MD – Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD – Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD – Family Medicine & Stephen Fort MD, MRCP, FRCPC – Cardiac Interventionalist [published Sep. 2022; accessed Feb. 2023] Available at: https://www.cigna.com/es-us/knowledge-center/hw/temas-de-salud/enfermedad-de-las-arterias-coronarias-hw113087

[2] Coronary Artery Disease – National Cancer Institute [accessed Feb. 2023] Available from: https://www.cancer.gov/espanol/publicaciones/diccionarios/diccionario-cancer/def/enfermedad-arterial-coronaria

[3] Coronary Artery Disease – Mayo Clinic Staff [published Jul. 2022; accessed Feb. 2023] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/es-es/diseases-conditions/coronary-artery-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350613

[4] 60% of risk associated with coronary artery disease is due to gene activity – Infosalus (Europa Press) [published Jan. 2022; accessed Feb. 2023] Available at: https://www.infosalus.com/salud-investigacion/noticia-60-riesgo-asociado-enfermedad-arterial-coronaria-debe-actividad-genetica-20220113071748.html

Written by Manuel de la Mata

Geneticist

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