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Alcoholism, Genetics, and Heart Failure

Genetics are capable of causing an individual to have a predisposition toward developing problems with alcoholism and addiction. Recent research into the genetics of alcoholism has found that there may also be a genetic component that causes one to be more likely to die from alcohol-related heart failure. The research shows that faulty versions of a gene called titin, when combined with alcohol consumption, can lead to early death as a result of heart failure.

Titin is a gene responsible for maintaining the elasticity of the heart muscle. Faulty versions of the gene titin play a role in a form of heart failure called dilated cardiomyopathy. According to Science Daily’s 2018 article entitled New Link Found Between Alcohol, Genes and Heart Failure, “Now new research suggests the faulty gene may interact with alcohol to accelerate heart failure in some patients with the gene, even if they only drink moderate amounts of alcohol.” The study examined patients with alcoholic cardiomyopathy and dilated cardiomyopathy to find links between the genetic trait and heart failure as a result of alcohol consumption.

Study Author Dr. James Ware from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College of London explained, “Our research strongly suggests alcohol and genetics are interacting — and genetic predisposition and alcohol consumption can act together to lead to heart failure. At the moment this condition is assumed to be simply due to too much alcohol. But this research suggests these patients should also be checked for a genetic cause — by asking about a family history and considering testing for a faulty titin gene, as well as other genes linked to heart failure.” The study found that 13.5 percent of patients with alcoholic cardiomyopathy carry the genetic mutation. Ware suggested that relatives of patients suffering from alcoholic cardiomyopathy should undergo genetic tests to see if they carry the faulty gene.

Many professionals suggest that moderate amounts of alcohol consumption can be good for a person’s heart and overall health. However, men and women with the faulty gene could be negatively affected by even small amounts of alcohol use. Study co-author Paul Barton explained, “Alcohol and the heart have a complicated relationship. While moderate levels may have benefits for heart health, too much can cause serious cardiac problems. This research suggests that in people with titin-related heart failure, alcohol may worsen the condition.”

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