13 May Seeking Clues to Heart Disease in DNA of an Unlucky Family
Early heart disease ran in Rick Del Sontro’s family, and every time he went for a run, he was scared his heart would betray him. So he did all he could to improve his odds. He kept himself lean, stayed away from red meat, spurned cigarettes and exercised intensely, even completing an Ironman Triathlon.
“I had bought the dream: if you just do the right things and eat the right things, you will be O.K.,” said Mr. Del Sontro, whose cholesterol and blood pressure are reassuringly low.
But after his sister, just 47 years old, found out she had advanced heart disease, Mr. Del Sontro, then 43, and the president of Zippy Shell, a self-storage company, went to a cardiologist.
An X-ray of his arteries revealed the truth. Like his grandfather, his mother, his four brothers and two sisters, he had heart disease. (One brother, Michael, has not received a diagnosis of the disease.)
Now he and his extended family have joined an extraordinary federal research project that is using genetic sequencing to find factors that increase the risk of heart disease beyond the usual suspects — high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes.