A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) has found that people born with a higher risk of heart attacks can be identified using a relatively cheap, one-off test.
At a mere £40 per test, the Genomic Risk Score (GRS) test is affordable enough to allow population-wide screening. Additionally, it can explain why people with no known risk factors for Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), such as high cholesterol, can still have heart attacks.
Rather than seeking out a single inherited gene associated with the CHD, the GRS test looks for patterns of risky genes. Furthermore, since a person’s genetic makeup does not change with age, in theory children can also be tested.
During the study, the researchers used blood tests. However, they have said the test could also be done with a mouth swab, making it easy to use in schools to test young children.
The GRS was devised after an analysis of 500,000 people between the ages of 40 and 69. 22,000 of these individuals had CHD. Participants with a GRS in the top 20 percent of the study were over four times more likely to develop CHD than those in the bottom 20 percent.
Senior author Professor Nilesh Sambani of the University of Leicester states that CHD starts several years before symptoms can be seen, and that this makes it important to identify those at risk of heart disease earlier. He says that the GRS can help doctors identify patients who may benefit most from medical interventions.
According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. In October 2017, the Network for Consumer Protection issued a press release stating, “At least 12 Pakistanis die every hour due to a heart attack while more than one third of all deaths in Pakistan are caused by cardiovascular diseases (CVD), making it the leading non-communicable disease in the country.”