Having taken a brief diversion to discuss healthy travel, I’ll complete the discussion regarding genetic markers of cardiovascular disease. Today’s post will cover the KIF6 genotype and the Interleukin 1 (IL-1) genotype.
The KIF6 gene codes for a transport protein which carries other substances around cells. The form of this gene that you carry will influence your lifetime risk for heart disease and the way your body responds to cholesterol lowering “statin” drugs. The drugs Lipitor and Pravachol only reduce heart risk in individuals who have the KIF6 variant. If you get put on one of these two drugs, first make sure potential benefit is more than harm, (as we say about every drug) and second, that you have the KIF6 variant. This variant also carries higher heart disease risk overall. In five large studies, untreated carriers have up to a 55 percent higher risk for heart attacks and stroke.
The last test I’ll discuss is the Interleukin 1 genotype. This test requires a cheek swab and looks for genes that regulate a family of messengers which promote inflammation. These variants,IL1A and IL1B, are linked to a greater inflammatory response. A carrier therefore is much more prone to have an extreme response to inflammation and to develop chronic inflammation. As previously discussed chronic inflammation increases the chance for cardiovascular disease. If you have both IL1 variants, your risk is equal to a smoker. As far as I can tell, the main benefit from this test is to increase one’s motivation to cultivate the healthy lifestyle measures which reduce or avoid inflammation. This is what we coach every day at VitalSigns: healthy diet, exercise, stress management including healthy relationships, adequate sound sleep and not smoking. It may also be a reason to take a daily aspirin and to get regular dental exams and cleanings. Those with IL1 variants have a higher incidence of periodontal disease which we are learning leads to a higher incidence of heart disease.
9P21, APO E, KIF6 and IL-1 are 4 of the more helpful and cost-effective genetic tests which relate to cardiovascular disease. These tests should not be done on everyone but can help decide about risk, determine use of meds, motivate for lifestyle change and apparently guide diet to some extent (although I need to investigate that claim some more).