One in five Britons may just feel the heart in their mouth when they read this bit. Genes which spell doom and double the risk of suffering a heart attack have finally been identified by scientists.
The findings published in the Journal Science, has shown that one fifth of Britons carry a particular gene which doubles their chances of suffering a heart attack. The only saving grace could come in the form of making healthy lifestyle choices that may help cut down the risk.
This finding could also assist in zeroing in on novel ways of treating or preventing a condition due to which nearly 100,000 Britons die each year. The latest findings are a result of two research projects which, for the first time has spotted a common DNA sequence that is behind the increased risk of heart disease.
During the first study, Icelandic scientists drew a comparison between the genetic make-up of 1,600 men and women who had suffered heart attacks and this was compared with 7000 records of healthy people. The scientists were able to spot a series of DNA, which if present, enhances the risk of suffering a heart attack.
The genetic sequences are formed in pairs, one taken from the mother and other from the father, And those who carry two copies of this heart attack causing strand, suffer an enhanced risk of having a heart attack.
Such people are prone to suffering a heart attack even when they are young and 64% are likely to suffer a heart attack during any stage in life. Those portraying one copy of the mutation carry a 50 per cent chance of suffering an "early onset" heart attack compared to those portraying "normal" DNA.
The scientists are planning to design a test which would enable doctors to spot people in the risk category and also those who are genetically programmed to suffer heart attacks.
Dr Tim Chico, a consultant cardiologist at Sheffield University, said: "We must not forget that 90 per cent of the risk of heart attack comes from things like smoking, cholesterol, diet, lack of exercise and diabetes. The worst thing would be to think 'I haven't got this, so I'm safe', or 'I've got this, so I'm doomed'. The effect of smoking is double the effect of having this gene. If you smoke and are overweight and don't take enough exercise that swamps the effect of your genes.
Whatever our genetic make-up, we can all reduce our chances of heart disease by improving our lifestyle."