Big news this week on new risks associated with a gene related to iron overload disease (aka hemochromatosis). A large Danish study published in the journal Neurology reports that people with certain mutations that cause hereditary hemochromatosis also have a two- to three-times risk for stroke (that’s double or triple the risk of the average joe).
Of all the various combinations of these mutations, only patients with two copies of H63D had a significantly increased risk of cerebrovascular disease and ischemic stroke, a stroke caused by a blockage in an artery in the brain, which cuts off the blood supply.
“This type of gene has previously been associated with brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson 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,” senior author Borge G. Nordestgaard, from Herlev University Hospital in Denmark, said in a statement. …
[T]wo copies of the H63D gene increased the risk of ischemic cerebrovascular disease by 2.1-fold and the risk of ischemic stroke by 2.8-fold. By contrast, individuals with hemochromatosis with other gene patterns did not have an increase in either of these risks.
The big question now is, how does this gene (which affects the regulation of iron at a cellular level) influence risk for stroke?
Hemochromatosis is an iron overload disease that affects around 1.5 million Americans, and probably accounts for 15 percent of the cases of adult onset diabetes. It can be caused by genes, or by non-genetic factors, or by a combination of factors. If hemochromatosis is diagnosed early, treatment can very effective and the long-term effects of iron overload can be prevented.