Researchers are reporting new evidence from genetic studies that those with excess belly fat appear to be at greater risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. While past observational studies have associated belly fat with higher disease risk, whether or not belly fat can actually cause heart disease and diabetes has remained unclear. In the new study, scientists analyzed the complete genetic data from over 400,000 adults in the United Kingdom. They found that those with a genetic predisposition to have a higher waist-to-hip ratio—those who tend to carry more fat in their belly than in their hips and thighs—had higher risks of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The findings suggests that preventing or shedding fat from the belly could help fight these two diseases. Their study, published in JAMA, was partly funded by NHLBI.
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Over 100,000 American lives could be saved annually if people lowered their blood pressure more dramatically than currently recommended, according to a new study. The findings are based on an analysis of the results from the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT), which in 2015 found that people with high blood pressure who met more intensive blood pressure levels of 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) versus 140 mm Hg (currently recommended) tended to have fewer heart-related deaths. The new study, published in Circulation, was partly funded by NHLBI.
Even very small amounts of calcium in the arteries of the heart, known as coronary artery calcium (CAC), in early adulthood indicate a high risk of fatal heart disease before age 60, according to a study partly funded by NHLBI. After adjusting for demographics, risk factors and treatments, those with any CAC experienced a fivefold increase in coronary heart disease and three fold in cardiovascular disease. The findings, published in JAMA Cardiology, call for more aggressive preventative measures for individuals with elevated artery calcium scores.
The most abundant yet more enigmatic cells in the brain, the astrocytes, may hold the key to how brain tumors form and, hopefully, how they can be treated, according to an NHLBI-funded study. The study, published in Nature Neuroscience, found that astrocytes play a role in human glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive type of brain tumor characterized for the epileptic seizures.
“The conditions that fall within NHLBI’s research portfolio include some of the most common diseases and risk factors as well as some of the leading causes of death in men and women in the United States and worldwide,” said Dr. George Mensah in an interview with Scientia. Drs. James Kiley, Keith Hoots and David Goff also discussed their divisions’ portfolio of research as part of this profile of the NHLBI.
Smoking is the most important risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but NHLBI-funded researchers discovered 13 new genetic regions that are linked to COPD. The findings, published in Nature Genetics, not just uncover new genetic risk factors for COPD, but also show how these overlap with risk for asthma and pulmonary fibrosis.
Bad air, the kind full of tiny particles coming from power plants and cars, might significantly increase the risk for dementia, according to a study partly funded by NHLBI. The findings, published in Translational Psychiatry, point to even worse outcomes for women with a genetic variation that increases the risk for Alzheimer’s.
Women who deliver their babies prematurely have an increased risk of developing heart disease later in life, according to a new study. While more research is needed to better understand this link, the study points to the importance of taking steps to protect heart health among women who deliver preterm infants, the researchers say. Their study, published in Circulation, was partly funded by NHLBI.
In a step toward regenerative medicine, researchers are reporting the development of newly engineered proteins that have the potential to repair damaged heart muscle and possibly other medical applications. Scientists are just beginning to understand a group of mysterious, protein-rich intracellular structures called “intrinsically disordered proteins”, which now appear to play key roles in normal cell function. In recent studies, researchers demonstrated for the first time that they could engineer these proteins in the lab and use them as molecular building blocks to make larger structures that could have useful applications ranging from drug delivery to tissue engineering. One possible application includes using these proteins to repair damaged tissue after a heart attack, the researchers noted. Their study, published in Nature Chemistry, was partly funded by NHLBI.
Too much of certain fat surrounding the heart could increase the risk for cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women and those with low estrogen levels, according to researchers partly funded by NHLBI. Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study findings reveal a previously unknown indicator of heart disease risk, which points to potential prevention strategies.