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New Genetic Score Developed To Find People At Risk Of Coronary Heart Disease

Published on 29th September 2016

Heart attacks are one of the main reasons that a person could require emergency medical treatment, with estimates from the British
Heart Foundation suggesting that about 50,000 men and 32,000 women suffer a heart attack each year in England.

Now, however, a new genetic risk score has been developed that could save thousands of lives each and every year by diagnosing the ten year risk of a cardiac arrest, helping doctors find those who are at risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD).

Researchers from the University of Leicester looked at more than 49,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (small differences in DNA that vary from person to person) and created a score called a genomic risks core. The higher this is, the higher the future risk of coronary heart disease. People with a GRS in the top 20 per cent were found to have an over five-fold higher life-time risk than those in the bottom 20 per cent.

At the moment, clinical risk scores are based on factors like diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure and cholesterol level but these are imprecise. GRS is independent of this and when the two scores are combined, researchers were better able to predict which people were at risk of developing heart disease in the next ten years.

“We already know that CHD starts at an early age, several decades before symptoms develop, and preventative measures should ideally be applied much earlier, especially to those who are at increased risk. Unfortunately, current clinical risk scores are not good at evaluating risk until middle age. On the other hand, the GRS, which is based on your DNA, can be
applied at any age,” professor Sir Nilesh Samani said.

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