Heart attack risk from smoking due to genetics

December 19, 2007

Heart attacks among cigarette smokers may have less to do with tobacco than genetics. A common defect in a gene controlling cholesterol metabolism boosts smokers’ risk of an early heart attack, according to a new study in Annals of Noninvasive Electrocardiology. The findings also show that smokers without the defect normally have heart attacks no sooner than their non-smoking peers.

Although the link between smoking and heart disease was established decades ago, the reasons for that link were unclear. More recent studies suggest smoking interferes with cholesterol metabolism, lowering smokers’ levels of high-density lipoprotein, the good cholesterol that protects against heart-attack risk. An estimated 55 to 60 percent of smokers face the added risk of a defective gene that also lowers levels of the protective high-density lipoprotein. Therefore, the combination of smoking plus a defective gene substantially accentuates the risk of heart attacks in these patients..

Researcher Ilan Goldenberg, M.D., and colleagues were the first to evaluate both smoking history and the genetic trait in heart-attack patients. They found that smokers with the genetic defect had their first heart attack eight to nine years earlier than non-smokers. Smokers with a healthy version of the gene had their first heart attack only three years earlier than non-smokers, a difference the researchers considered non-significant.

“Since the frequency of this ‘bad’ gene in the general population is about 60 percent, many people who smoke have a high risk of experiencing a heart attack at a young age,” Goldenberg said. “This finding should increase awareness for smoking cessation.”

Source: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Explore further: Ion propulsion—the key to deep space exploration

Related Stories

Ion propulsion—the key to deep space exploration

November 4, 2015

When we think of space travel, we tend to picture a massive rocket blasting off from Earth, with huge blast streams of fire and smoke coming out the bottom, as the enormous machine struggles to escape Earth's gravity. Rockets ...

Pfizer anti-smoking drug has heart risks: US

June 16, 2011

US regulators said Thursday that the label on Pfizer's anti-smoking drug Chantix must be changed to warn of a slightly higher risk of heart problems in patients who already have cardiovascular disease.

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.