Genetics of healthy cardiovascular aging

Statistics Canada projects that there will be more than 1.6 million seniors over 85 by the year 2041. Only a minority who reach this age maintain a good quality of life and are free of major age-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, lung disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Advancing age is the biggest risk factor for cardiovascular disease. However, a minority of people older than 85 — called “”super seniors”” — seem resistant to the most common age-related diseases, including CVD. These people may represent a group that either lacks genetic susceptibility factors that contribute to disease in the majority of people or may possess genetic resistance factors that enhance their ability to resist disease and prolong lifespan. Dr. Maziar Rahmani seeks to answer whether people whose hearts remain healthy well into their 80s and 90s have “good genes.” He is studying more than one thousand residents in the Metro Vancouver area, using cutting-edge technologies to scan the entire genome of each study participant. He will look across more than a million potential variances to find genetic commonalities among super seniors in Vancouver, and compare these findings to other studies using European and other North American populations. Identifying and understanding genetic factors that influence resistance or susceptibility to heart problems could open the way for personalized, optimized disease prevention and treatment strategies.