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Stress gene link to heart attack risk

Published on 19 December 2013 02:30 PM

Beating stress has long been associated with living longer, but now new research suggests why.

US scientists have associated a stress gene with an increased chance of dying from heart attack or heart disease.


Heart patients with the genetic change had a 38% higher risk of heart attack or death, according to the study.

The discovery could result in personalised medicine that would see improved targeting of drug or psychological treatment to people most at risk, the researchers say.

The study endorses earlier evidence that stress may directly raise heart disease risks, claims the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

The Duke University School of Medicine analysed a single DNA letter change in the human genome, which has been linked to greater susceptibility to the impact of stress.

The BHF recommends that people can minimise stress risk by making positive lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and a balanced diet, or discussing concerns with a doctor.

Patients with stress gene at greater risk

Scientists found heart patients with the genetic alteration had a 38% greater risk of heart attack or death from heart disease after 7 years of follow up.

This contrasted with those without, even after taking into account elements such as age, obesity and smoking.

They suggest that stress management techniques and drug therapies could lessen deaths and disability from heart attacks.

Dr Redford Williams, director of the Behavioural Medicine Research Centre at Duke University School of Medicine, told BBC News: 'That's a step in the direction of personalised medicine for cardiovascular disease.'

Finding people with the genetic change could result in early interventions for heart patients who are at big risk of dying or having a heart attack, say the scientists.

They studied over 6,000 heart patients and found around 1 in 10 men and 3% of women had the genetic change associated with handling emotional stress badly.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the BHF, said the researchers have suggested tackling the problem by changing behaviour or with existing medicines.

He said: 'There are positive lifestyle changes you can make to help you cope with stress. A balanced diet and regular physical activity will help you feel better.'

Copyright Press Association 2013

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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