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Twins Lead to the Prevention of Atherosclerosis: Preliminary Findings of International Twin Study 2009

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Introduction.—Atherosclerosis is an infl ammatory process in which the artery wall thickens as a result of plaque deposition, but this process may be preceded by increased arterial stiffness. We sought to evaluate the infl uence of genetics and shared and unshared environmental components on the onset of atherosclerosis.

Methods.—A total of 135 monozygotic (MZ) and 70 dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs (mean age 49 ± 16 years) underwent carotid intima media thickness (IMT; carotid analyzer) and arterial stiffness (augmentation index on brachial artery [Aix bra], pulse wave velocity on aorta [PWV ao]; TensioMed Arteriograph) measurements.

Results.—Age-adjusted intraclass correlations were greater in MZ than in DZ pairs for proximal right common carotid artery (CCA; MZ = 0.19, DZ = 0.06), proximal and distal left CCA (MZ = 0.27, DZ = 0.06; MZ = 0.27, DZ = 0.13, respectively), and proximal left internal carotid artery (ICA; MZ = 0.39, DZ = – 0.54), suggesting a moderate genetic effect. Heritability was estimated to be 18% (95% confi dence interval [CI] = 3–33) for proximal right CCA, 26% and 27% for proximal and distal left CCA, respectively, and 38% (95% CI = 26–49) for proximal left ICA. Regarding distal right CCA and proximal right ICA, no genetic effects were detected. Age-adjusted intraclass correlation of Aix bra and PWV ao were 0.65 (95% CI = 0.55–0.72) and 0.46 (95% CI = 0.33–0.57) in MZ, 0.42 (95% CI = 0.24–0.57) and 0.28 (95% CI = 0.08–0.47) in DZ pairs; heritability 45% (95% CI = 12–71%) and 42% (95% CI = 2–57%) adjusted by age, respectively.

Conclusions.—The investigated parameters appeared to be only moderately infl uenced by genetic factors. Environmental factors of relevance for these measures appeared not to be shared within family but related to individual experience (e.g., smoking habits, diet, and physical activity). Atherosclerosis detection at an early stage is necessary for treatment to prevent serious complications such as stroke and heart attack.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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