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Educating People about Heart Risk Genes can Improve Cholesterol Levels, Study Finds

Update Date: Nov 09, 2015 12:51 PM EST

People who learned about their heart risk genes were more likely to effectively reduce their cholesterol levels, a new study found.

For this study, the researchers from Mayo Clinic recruited about 200 participants between the ages of 45 and 65 who had an intermediate risk of heart disease. The participants were not taking statins, a group of cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The researchers randomly told half of the group what their 10-year risk of heart disease score was based on factors that including blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking status. The remaining half of the group, the participants were also informed of their heart disease risk scores that were based on the same traditional factors combined with additional data coming from an assessment of 28 genes. These genes have been linked to heart disease. All of the participants were then educated about how they can lower their risks.

Six months later, the team found that people from the genetic risk group were able to reduce their low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is also known as bad cholesterol, by about 10 points. The team found that this group of people was more likely to start taking statins.

"We gave them this information, people were able to understand it, the physician was able to act on it and a decision was made more often to start therapy, and that resulted in lowering LDL cholesterol," lead investigator of the study, Dr. Iftikhar Kullo, who is a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, said to Reuters. "Anything that has lowered LDL has lowered risk of heart disease."

The researchers added that more research should be conducted to fully understand the benefits and cons of telling people about their genetic risks for specific diseases.

The study's findings were presented at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Orlando, Florida.

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