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Common Gene Defect Raises Stroke Risk

One in four northern Europeans carries the variant, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, March 28, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- A common genetic defect can significantly increase a person's risk for stroke, Danish researchers report.

The 24-year study included almost 9,200 people, 393 of whom had a stroke and 504 of whom developed cerebrovascular disease during the study period.

Reporting in the March 27 issue of Neurology, researchers found that people with two copies of the H63D genetic defect in the HFE gene were two to three times more likely to have a stroke than people without the defect.

It's estimated that about 25 percent of northern Europeans carry the H63D gene defect, and it may be even more common in southern Europeans.

"This type of gene has previously been associated with brain diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, ALS, multiple sclerosis and cerebrovascular disease, but this is the first time we've been able to determine this gene predicts such a significant increased risk of stroke," study author Dr. Borge G. Nordestgaard, of Herlev University Hospital in Copenhagen, said in a prepared statement.

The genetic defect was not associated with carotid atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries in the neck and head), the researchers said.

Further research is needed to determine why this genetic defect appears to cause such a significant increase in stroke, they added.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke outlines stroke risk factors and symptoms.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, March 26, 2007
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