Young adults face heart changes if overweight

Research in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation suggests that being overweight may cause higher blood pressure and thicken heart muscle in those between the ages of 17 and 21. These factors, according to the U.K. researchers, could set people up for heart disease later in life. To arrive at this conclusion, investigators examined findings from three types of genetic analysis to uncover evidence that body mass index (BMI) causes specific differences in cardiovascular measurements. "Our results support efforts to reduce [BMI] to within a normal, healthy range from a young age to prevent later heart disease," said Kaitlin Wade, lead author of the study and a research associate at the Medical Research Council Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol Medical School in the U.K. The data came from the Children of the 90s study – also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Two of the analyses used in the study – Mendelian randomization and recall-by-genotype – take advantage of the properties of genetic variation. Specifically, recall-by-genotype exploits the random allocation of genes at conception. The researchers plan to examine the relationship between higher BMI and other possible disease mechanisms, such as the abundance and diversity of microbes living in the gut. The findings were published in the article "Assessing the causal role of body mass index on cardiovascular health in young adults." After July 30, 2018, a manuscript will be available online.

Research could yield path for treatments for AF, heart block

Scientists are showcasing research showing that knowledge of biological processes related to the heart's electrical activity has been gained through a genome study. The molecular mechanisms explored in by the researchers, some of whom were from the University of Washington, offer insights into cardiac electrical diseases and could suggest avenues of drug research for preventing and treating heart rhythm or conduction problems. Researchers looked at the part of the electrocardiogram, or heart recording, called the PR interval, which is measured in milliseconds and traces electrical conduction from the heart's sinus node throughout the atria to its ventricles. Investigators identified 44 chromosomal regions related to the PR interval, 34 of which had not been identified previously. "Genes in these 44 loci are overrepresented in cardiac disease processes, including heart block, sick sinus syndrome, and atrial fibrillation," the researchers wrote. In addition, certain gene transcription factors, ion channel genes and cell junction or cell signaling proteins that play a part in the conduction of the heart's electrical waves showed possible contributions to abnormalities. The researchers also uncovered gene regulators that were found only in the heart's atrial tissues, underscoring the need for examining certain genomic data in the tissue types relevant to the disease or trait in question, not just in blood samples. The findings were published in an article titled "PR interval genome-wide association meta-analysis identifies 50 loci associated with atrial and atrioventricular electrical activity," that appeared July 25, 2018, in Nature Communications.

Alert to overweight scuba divers

Older, overweight scuba divers should shed pounds to avoid an underwater heart attack, according to a study appearing in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. Recreational diving fatalities are rare – 181 worldwide in 2015 – but the number involving cardiac issues is climbing. Between 1989 and 2015, the proportion of diving fatalities involving those between the ages of 50 and 59 increased from 15 percent to 35 percent, while fatalities in the over-60s rose from 5 percent to 20 percent. "Cardiac issues are now a leading factor in diving fatalities," said study author Peter Buzzacott, of the University of Western Australia, in Crawley, Australia. "Divers who learned to dive years ago and who are now old and overweight, with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, are at increased risk of dying." The researchers arrived at their conclusion using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Their findings were published July 25, 2018, in the article "Risk factors for cardiovascular disease among active adult US scuba divers."

New tool aims to predict those at risk of heart attack

A team of researchers led by cardiologists at University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center has developed a online tool to help determine which patients between the ages 40 and 65 are at the highest risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years. The Astronaut Cardiovascular Health and Risk Modification (Astro-CHARM) calculator was developed by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute with UT Southwestern team led by Amit Khera. "We found that the Astro-CHARM tool significantly improves cardiovascular risk prediction. It will be an important step forward in decision-making for preventive treatments in the general population for people in midlife," said first author Khera, professor of internal medicine and director of UT Southwestern's Preventive Cardiology Program. The mean age of the 7,382 study participants was 51. Data for this study were pooled from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, the Dallas Heart Study, and the Prospective Army Coronary Calcium Project.

The full study on Astro-CHARM was published Jan. 1, 2018, in the journal Circulation in an article titled "The astronaut cardiovascular health and risk modification (Astro-CHARM) coronary calcium atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk calculator." The Astro-CHARM cardiovascular disease prevention tool can be found at astrocharm.org.

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