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Approved Research

Investigating new risk factors for cardiovascular diseases

Principal Investigator: Dr Francine Marques
Approved Research ID: 86879
Approval date: May 20th 2022

Lay summary

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) remain a major health problem worldwide. High blood pressure (BP), or hypertension, is one of the most prevalent chronic CVDs, affecting 1 in 3 adults worldwide. Hypertension is known as a 'silent disease' as it usually does not produce any symptoms until it might be too late. Two-thirds of hypertensive patients are either not treated or their blood pressure is not under control with currently available medication.

Numerous lifestyle factors could affect BP levels, including obesity and unhealthy diets (alcohol consumption, high sodium/fat or low fibre intake). Diets that are considered healthier, such as those with high fibre intake, are known to help people keep a normal BP, but it remains unclear who benefits the most from a high fibre diet. These can have profound effects to the gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems. Our research aims to study whether people's DNA changes would affect the beneficial effect on BP from those healthy diets, and the relationship these have with gastrointestinal diseases and risk of high BP and CVDs.

The estimated duration of the project is two years. We plan to use multiple layers of data from existing data resources at the UK Biobank, including population characteristics, lifestyle and environmental factors, health outcomes and genomics. The ultimate goal is to build prediction models for individuals' risk of CVDs and to estimate to what extent the risk will be affected by traditional risk factors, genetic risk factors and gastrointestinal comorbidities.

Our proposed research has remarkable translational potential as it helps to answer which group of hypertensive patients would benefit the most from dietary interventions and the role of gastrointestinal comorbidities in the risk of CVDs. We will identify the key biological mechanisms that involve in the interactions between BP, CVDs and their gastrointestinal comorbidities. Our findings will also aid in revealing pathways and targets that can be used for personalized treatment strategies.