Sophisticated genetic testing does not improve upon the ability of traditional risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes, and smoking status to predict who will develop coronary heart disease, according to a study in JAMA that analyzed data from more than 7,200 middle-aged and older adults (about half of them women).
Researchers ran the participants’ risk factors and genetic information, respectively, through two tools: the 2013 American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology (AHA/ACC) risk calculator and a newer “polygenic risk calculator” that takes into account millions of gene variants that are associated with heart disease. Then they checked the resulting scores against whether each individual experienced a cardiac event or required an invasive procedure to correct coronary artery narrowing over an average of about 15 years.
Both the genetic calculator and the AHA/ACC tool were highly predictive of those events, with neither superior to the other (and neither tool performed perfectly; some individuals deemed at low risk had cardiac events while some deemed at high risk did not).
A limitation of the study is that the polygenic calculator was developed using people of European descent, so only white individuals were included in the current analysis.
Also see 10 Healthy Tips to Take to Heart.