Women with gene variant ‘more prone to heart disease’

woman clutching her heart
Post-menopausal women are just as likely to develop heart disease as men but are less likely to be properly diagnosed.

A new study from researchers at Western University in London, Canada – published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology – defines a genetic basis for female heart disease and identifies which women may be more prone to this condition.

Historically, say the Western researchers, heart disease was assumed to be a male disease. Evidence has shown, though, that post-menopausal women are just as likely to develop heart disease as men but are less likely to be properly diagnosed.

The new study identifies a common gene variant in women that increases their chance of aging high blood pressure – the greatest risk factor for heart attack and stroke.

When functioning normally, the G-protein coupled estrogen receptor 30 (GPER) – which is activated by estrogen – relaxes the blood vessels, lowering blood pressure.

The study finds that women who have a form of GPER that does not function correctly increases their risk of developing high blood pressure.

By comparing patients referred to a tertiary care clinic at London Health Sciences Centre, the researchers found that women, but not men, carrying the GPER variant had higher blood pressure.

Also, in a “hard-to-treat blood pressure clinic,” where lead author Dr. Ross Feldman is a physician, almost half of the attending women expressed the variant gene.

Dr. Feldman and colleagues also found that twice as many women carried the gene than men with blood pressure that was difficult to treat.

“This is one step in understanding the effects of estrogen on heart disease, and understanding why some women are more prone to heart attack and stroke than others,” Dr. Feldman says. “Our work is a step forward in developing approaches to treating heart disease in this under-appreciated group of patients.”


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