August 28, 2006

Get to know about heart disease through arteries warning

People suffering advanced heart disease have arteries that are biologically 40 years older than their real age, experts have warned.

A 50-year-old man with the most advanced form of the disease would have the arteries of a 90-year-old, the study from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) suggested.

Researchers from Cambridge University examined tissue from heart bypass and transplant patients to map the ageing process of artery cells.

They hope their findings will mark a step forward in research aimed at preventing heart attacks.

By looking at the smooth muscle cells of diseased blood vessels, the experts were able to identify accelerated telomere damage - a biological marker of DNA ageing.

In patients with heart disease, the artery cells divide seven to 13 times more rapidly than normal, prematurely ageing the arteries, the BHF said.

Older artery cells cannot repair properly and do not function as well as younger ones. This makes them less capable of preventing fatty deposits from forming, which can narrow the arteries and cause heart attacks.

The scientists found that the effect of heart disease was on a sliding scale - the more advanced the disease, the greater the degree of cell deterioration.

Professor Martin Bennett, BHF professor of cardiovascular sciences whose group at the university led the research, said: "In early stages of heart disease, the arteries are between five and 15 years older than the person's real age.

"If you have mild heart disease and can limit your risk factors by stopping smoking, controlling hypertension and diabetes, and taking statins to lower cholesterol, you will slow this ageing process."

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