Your cholesterol levels may be
affected by at least nine genes, and those genes may sway your cardiovascular
risk, a new study shows.
In the study, certain variations in those nine genes were linked to HDL
("good") and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, and also to
the odds of dying from coronary heart disease or having a first
heart attack or clot-related stroke .
But that doesn't mean you can blame risky cholesterol levels just on those
genes. Lifestyle factors, including diet and exercise , still matter.
Here's a quick look at the study, published in The New England Journal of
About 5,400 adults (average age: 57) in Malmo, Sweden took part. They got
checkups, which included cholesterol tests, and were followed for up to 10
The researchers, who included Sekar Kathiresan, MD, of Massachusetts General
Hospital's cardiology division, also screened nine cholesterol-related genes
from each person.
Variations in nine areas called single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)
spread across those nine genes were associated with HDL or LDL cholesterol levels, for
better or worse.
The researchers assigned participants a "genotype score" ranging
from 0 to 18, based on their gene profile. The higher the genotype score, the
less favorable the genetic profile for those nine genes.
During the follow-up period, 238 participants died of coronary heart disease
or had their first heart attack or clot-related stroke (ischemic stroke).
Participants with worse gene profiles were at higher risk than those with
better gene profiles.
For instance, one-third of the participants had a genotype score of 11 or
higher. They were 63% more likely to die of coronary heart disease, suffer a
heart attack, or have an ischemic stroke during the follow-up period than
people with a genotype score of nine or less.
The researchers aren't recommending screening for those genes to predict
heart disease. But they note that in patients considered to be at moderate risk
of heart disease, the genes may help identify patients that are actually at
higher or lower risk.
Meanwhile, you don't need to get a gene test to check your cholesterol. All
it takes is a simple blood test.
By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Elizabeth Klodas
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