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Scoring the Risk

While risk factors like cholesterol levels and a history of smoking can gauge whether someone is at increased risk of heart disease, Discover magazine writes that those risk factors might not work as well in younger people and that other means of assessing risk like polygenic risk scores might be better poised for use in that population.

For instance, researchers led by Amit Khera from Massachusetts General Hospital and Sekar Kathiresan, who co-founded Verve Therapeutics, developed a polygenic risk score that uses 6 million SNPs to gauge someone's early risk of having a heart attack. As Discover notes, the researchers aim to extend their approach to other conditions like atrial fibrillation obesity, and inflammatory bowel disease.

However, it notes that the approach has its critics, which argue that such scores aren't yet ready for clinical use and might not be applicable to all populations, as studies on which the scores are based primarily included people of European ancestry. "The biggest criticism is that we don't know how much information [the scores] add and in what clinical situations they are likely to be especially useful or especially unhelpful," Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Dan Roden adds at Discover.