Life Extension Update
Tuesday, February 21, 2012. The March, 2012 issue of the American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology reports the finding of Danish researchers of a link between short telomeres and an increased risk of heart disease and early death. Telomeres cap and protect the ends of chromosomes and shorten with the passage of time, which makes them useful as a marker of cellular aging. While accelerated telomere shortening has been associated with obesity, smoking and other factors; multivitamin use, exercise and high levels of omega 3 fatty acids have been found to have a protective effect on their maintenance.
University of Copenhagen Clinical Professor of Genetic Epidemiology Borge Nordestgaard and his colleagues measured white blood cell telomere length in blood samples from 19,838 participants in the Copenhagen City Heart Study and the Copenhagen General Population Study. The subjects were followed for up to 19 years, during which time 2,038 cases of ischemic heart disease, 929 heart attacks and 4,342 deaths occurred.
Telomere length was found to decrease with age in both men and women. Shortened telomeres were detected in 25 percent of the participants, and were associated with a 49 percent adjusted increase in heart attack risk, a 24 percent increased risk of heart disease, and a 25 percent greater risk of early mortality. "The risk of heart attack or early death is present whether your telomeres are shortened due to lifestyle or due to high age," remarked Dr Nordestgaard, who is a chief physician at Copenhagen University Hospital. "That smoking and obesity increases the risk of heart disease has been known for a while. We have now shown, as has been speculated, that the increased risk is directly related to the shortening of the protective telomeres - so you can say that smoking and obesity ages the body on a cellular level, just as surely as the passing of time."
"Future studies will have to reveal the actual molecular mechanism by which the short telomere length causes heart attacks," he added. "Does one cause the other or is the telomere length and the coronary event both indicative of a third - yet unknown - mechanism?"
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