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Coronary artery disease more likely for people with low iron levels

Monday 17th July 2017
A new study has revealed how both iron levels and genetics can affect a persons risk of heart disease. Image: hiloi via iStock
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People who have low levels of iron in their blood may be at increased risk of a heart disease diagnosis, according to a new study.

Researchers from University College London and Imperial College London set out to explore the link between anaemia and heart disease, finding that individuals with lower blood-iron levels are more likely to be diagnosed with coronary artery disease, a type of cardiovascular disease.

The team of scientists began by looking at people's genetic make-up and how this impacted their iron levels. They identified that a small difference in DNA structure concerning a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) could significantly affect the level of iron in a person's blood.

Following the genetic screening of thousands of patients both with and without coronary artery disease, it was found that those with SNPs conducive to higher iron levels were markedly less likely to receive a diagnosis for the condition.

This therefore indicates that genetics can play a role in a person's risk of certain types of heart disease, as can low levels of iron in the blood.

Now, the researchers are planning to conduct a new trial that will involve giving either iron supplements or placebos to patients and examining the effect of these on their heart disease risk.

However, regardless of the results of this initial follow-up experiment, the research has provided doctors with a new area to explore and target in relation to iron deficiency and heart disease, meaning further investigations can be planned along these lines in the future.

Imperial College London's Dr Dipender Gill, lead author of the study, explained: "We have shown that having low iron status increases the risk of coronary artery disease, but this doesn't mean correcting that resolves the increased risk.

"What we have highlighted is a potential therapeutic target that we didn't know about before, and one that's easily modifiable."

Written by Mathew Horton

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