The Importance of Telomere Shortening for Atherosclerosis and Mortality

J Cardiovasc Dev Dis. 2020 Aug 6;7(3):29. doi: 10.3390/jcdd7030029.


Telomeres are the protective end caps of chromosomes and shorten with every cell division. Short telomeres are associated with older age and adverse lifestyle factors. Leucocyte telomere length (LTL) has been proposed as a biomarker of biological age. The shortening of LTL with age is the result of the end-replication problem, environmental, and lifestyle-related factors. Epidemiologic studies have shown that LTL predicts cardiovascular disease, all-cause mortality, and death from vascular causes. Age appears to be an important co-variate that explains a substantial fraction of this effect. Although it has been proposed that short telomeres promote atherosclerosis and impair the repair of vascular lesions, existing results are inconsistent. Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation can both accelerate telomere shortening. Multiple factors, including homocysteine (HCY), vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 modulate oxidative stress and inflammation through direct and indirect mechanisms. This review provides a compact overview of telomere physiology and the utility of LTL measurements in atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. In addition, it summarizes existing knowledge regarding the impact of oxidative stress, inflammation, HCY, and B-vitamins on telomere function.

Keywords: B vitamins; age; atherosclerosis; carsiovascular disease; inflammation; telomere.

Publication types

  • Review