Genes involved in heart disease are similar across all populations, study finds

The genes involved in coronary heart disease, the most common form of heart disease, appear to be nearly the same for everyone, according to a VA study.

Roughly one-third to one-half of everyone’s chances for developing this type of heart disease are rooted in their genes. This genetic risk seems to be the same across all major racial and ethnic backgrounds, including people of European, African, Japanese, and Indigenous ancestries, the VA study found.

“Some groups, such as African Americans, are more likely to suffer from heart disease, and our findings indicate that’s not because they have a higher genetic risk for the disease,” says study author Dr. Catherine Tcheandjieu, a genetic epidemiologist at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and University of California San Francisco. “It confirms that other factors are responsible for more heart disease in those populations, such as access to health care and different lived experiences,” she adds.

The genetic study — the largest to date on heart disease — was published August 1, 2022, in Nature Medicine. It looked at nearly a quarter of a million cases of coronary heart disease, including more than 100,000 U.S. Veterans with the disease.

Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for one in every five deaths. It occurs when major blood vessels to the heart muscle become narrowed or blocked, which can lead to heart attack.

The study was led by investigators at the Palo Alto VA and involved researchers from several other VAs across the nation.

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