Heart disease is linked to just a few rogue genes as well as lifestyle choices, landmark research into Britain’s biggest killer has found.
The 18 genes that raise the risk of cardiac problems, from heart attacks to hardening of the arteries, have been pinpointed in three studies involving hundreds of scientists worldwide.
The breakthrough opens the door to ways of treating and even preventing heart disease, which is to blame for one in eight deaths around the world – including more than 90,000 a year in the UK.
Heart attacks alone kill one Briton every six minutes and cost the economy £9billion a year.
The potential of the findings is so great that heart disease could be eradicated within 50 years, say researchers.
The discovery, detailed in the journal Nature Genetics, more than doubles the number of known heart disease genes.
Some of the newly discovered genes affect cholesterol, blood pressure and other processes important to heart health – but how many of the others damage the heart and arteries is, as yet, a mystery
Professor Hugh Watkins, of Oxford University, who co-led one of the studies, said the first new drugs could be on the market in under a decade.