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Telomere length and cardiovascular disease risk

Zhan, Yiqiang; Hägg, Sara

Current Opinion in Cardiology: May 2019 - Volume 34 - Issue 3 - p 270–274
doi: 10.1097/HCO.0000000000000613
MOLECULAR GENETICS: Edited by Ali J. Marian

Purpose of review Telomere length has been hypothesized as a putative biomarker for cardiovascular disease. However, the findings are mixed and shared confounding factors may explain these associations. The current review aims to summarize the recent literature on the role of telomere length in cardiovascular disease and give directions for future potential as a predictive biomarker.

Recent findings In this review, we outline the biology of telomeres as a biomarker of aging through its shortening capacity across the life course. Recent epidemiological evidence for its associations with cardiovascular risk factors and disease is discussed. Then we highlight the possible causal role of telomeres in coronary heart disease and summarize the potential biological mechanisms and pathways known.

Summary The current research and results presented on telomere length may implicate that short telomeres are causal risk factors for cardiovascular disease, partially through insulin-mediated pathways. Nevertheless, further studies with refined quantification methods and larger populations are needed to clarify the added role of telomere length in predicting future risks of cardiovascular disease on top of existing risk biomarkers, and whether it may be amenable for intervention.

Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

Correspondence to Sara Hägg, PhD, Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Box 281, 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail:

Copyright © 2019 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.