Researchers have found a genetic mutation that can nearly double a person’s stroke risk. However, there’s good news too; this discovery could help doctors develop treatments and improve preventative care, so that fewer people need suffer the condition.
The gene, called HDAC9, produces a protein that is important to the development of muscle tissue and of the heart. A mutation in the gene, which occurs about 10 percent of the time, significantly increases a person’s risk of ischemic strokes, which account for about a third of all strokes. In an ischemic stroke, a blood clot forms in the brain, robbing it of oxygen needed to function.
Scientists are studying the HDAC9 mutation to try to use this new understanding of a mechanism behind strokes to work to treat it. Drugs exist now to block the effect of the gene, but because the mutation is newly discovered, it is not known if these drugs would work in stroke prevention, or what side effects they might have.
Although stroke is common among elderly patients and more likely in patients over 55, there’s a risk at any age. In addition to this genetic mutation, risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Untreated diabetes
- Excessive drinking
Experts say that up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented, and with emergency treatment it is often survivable. More than 7 million Americans are stroke survivors. If you have risk factors talk to your doctor about what you can do to keep yourself safe.