Heart disease is the number-one cause of death among aging people in the U.S., and it affects men more than women. The difference in prevalence among genders isn’t well understood, but University of Guelph researchers now think a protein called “CapZ” might hold some answers. A reduction in CapZ levels seems to protect against heart attacks.
The main types of heart disease are heart attacks, stroke, angina, coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, and heart failure. Approximately 5.7 million American adults have heart failure. Men are also thought to experience heart failure more frequently than women.
The researchers will be studying how CapZ levels are affected by aging and gender, which may lead to a new therapeutic treatment for heart problems in men and women. Age is a major risk factor in the development of heart failure: around one percent of people under age 65 have heart failure, and seven percent of those aged 75 to 84 develop it. That number increases to 15% in people older than 85.
Hormones may also play a role in cellular changes to the heart. Pre-menopausal women are protected against heart failure compared to men. But after menopause and at the age of 80, the risk of heart failure evens out. The reason for this is unknown, though estrogen levels may have an effect. Once these hormonal changes are accounted for, the researchers can identify the trigger after menopause that makes women more susceptible to heart failure and also the reason why women are protected early in life.
In previous studies, the research team found that the hearts of older male mice have greater CapZ levels than female mice of equal age. The male mice showed signs of reduced heart performance, but the females had normal heart function. The researchers found that genetically engineering male mice with lower CapZ levels helped prevent heart failure, which suggests that CapZ may help protect the heart against the aging process.
The University of Guelph research team now plans to assess the impact of aging and gender on CapZ levels in the heart. Future studies will look at when and how the protein levels change over time in male and female mice. They plan on using older mice that are two to three years of age, which is the equivalent of 70 to 90 years of age in humans, to determine when the mice lose CapZ protection.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“Prof Gets CIHR Grant to Study Role of Gender, Aging in Heart Failure,” University of Guelph web site, July 6, 2016; http://news.uoguelph.ca/2016/07/prof-gets-cihr-grant-study-role-gender-aging-heart-failure/.
“What Is Heart Failure?” Heart Failure Matters web site; http://www.heartfailurematters.org/en_GB/Understanding-heart-failure/What-is-heart-failure, last accessed July 7, 2016.
Balch, J., et al., Prescription for Natural Cures: A Self-Care Guide for Treating Health Problems with Natural Remedies Including Diet, Nutrition, Supplements, and Other Holistic Methods (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004), 453.
“Heart Failure Fact Sheet,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site, last updated June 16, 2016; http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_failure.htm.