Posted on Mar 09, 2012, 6 a.m.
Danish researchers report that shortened telomeres directly correlate to increased risk of heart attack and premature death.
Telomeres are sections of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes, protecting them from damage and the loss of cell functions associated with aging. Shorter telomeres are thought to be an indicator of faster aging. Borge Nordestgaard, from the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), and colleagues completed a study involving 19,838 Danish men and women, enrolled in the Copenhagen City Heart Study and the Copenhagen General Population Study. Following the subjects for 19 years, the researchers found that short telomeres increase the risk of heart attack by 50%, and the risk of early death by 25%. The team urges further studies to uncover the actual molecular mechanism by which short telomere length causes these correlations, and urges physicians to conduct blood tests to establish their patients’ telomere length and thereby cellular wear and tear.
Maren Weischer, Stig E. Bojesen, Richard M. Cawthon, Jacob J. Freiberg, Anne Tybaerg-Hansen, Borge G. Nordestgaard. “Short Telomere Length, Myocardial Infarction, Ischemic Heart Disease, and Early Death.” Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2012;32:822-829.