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The facts about cholesterol levels

CSIRO is carrying out research to develop strategies for reducing cholesterol levels, the risk of heart disease and other conditions that are food-related and correctable through modifying our diet.


CSIRO is carrying out research in a number of dietary areas to develop strategies for reducing cholesterol levels, the risk of heart disease and other conditions that are food-related and correctable through modification of diet.

High levels of cholesterol are a risk factor for coronary artery disease (heart attacks and angina).

What is it?

Cholesterol is an essential type of fat that is carried in the blood.

All cells in the body need cholesterol for internal and external membranes.

It is also needed to produce some hormones and for other functions.

The body generally makes all the cholesterol it needs.

Some dietary cholesterol is normally excreted via the liver, however eating too much saturated fat leads to excess cholesterol in the blood stream.

Why is high cholesterol a problem?

High levels of cholesterol in the blood stream are a risk factor for coronary artery disease (heart attacks and angina).

If your cholesterol level is 6.5 mmol/L or greater your risk of heart disease is about 4 times greater than that of a person with a cholesterol level of 4 mmol/L.

High blood levels of cholesterol are a risk factor for coronary artery disease (heart attacks and angina).

Not all people with high cholesterol levels get heart disease.

About 30 per cent of the community will die of heart disease and most of these will be over 65 years old.

Heart disease usually takes 60-70 years to develop, but if you discover your cholesterol level is high you should see your doctor within the next 2-3 months, not necessarily tomorrow.

Other risk factors for heart disease include smoking, high blood pressure and obesity.

Cholesterol – the good and the bad

Cholesterol is carried in the blood stream in particles called lipoproteins.

These are named according to how big they are:

  • the very large particles are called Very Low Density Lipoproteins (VLDL)
  • the intermediate size ones are called Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and these particles cause heart disease
  • the smallest particles are called High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) and these particles actually protect against heart disease.

What to do if your cholesterol level is high

The most effective way to lower your cholesterol is to reduce the amount of animal fat in your diet by various means.

You could:

  • reduce cheese intake and/or substitute low fat varieties
  • choose reduced fat milks
  • substitute polyunsaturated margarine for butter
  • choose lean cuts of meat and remove all visible fat
  • eat skinless chicken, fish or beans
  • beware of pies, pasties, fish and chips and commercial cakes (hidden fat)
  • make cakes at home with polyunsaturated fat, cook chips with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oil
  • lose weight if overweight.

If you make a number of changes to your diet you can expect your cholesterol to fall by 10 per cent.

About 15 per cent of people will see no change and another 15 per cent will see changes of 20-30 per cent.

How high is high?

If your cholesterol is between 5.5 and 6.5 your risk of heart disease is only increased by a small amount.

Don’t panic but make a few moderate changes to your diet.

However if you already have heart disease, or one of your parents developed heart disease at an early age, (less than 55 years of age) then you need to make bigger changes.

If your cholesterol is higher than 6.5 then you need to make more changes.

If despite changes to your diet your cholesterol level remains above 6.5 you may need medication, especially if you have the other risk factors mentioned or you have a family history of heart disease- see your doctor.

What about triglycerides?

Triglycerides are a stored energy source.

Most of the triglyceride is found in the very large particles, the VLDL.

Under some circumstances high blood triglyceride can be a risk factor.

If your cholesterol is high (greater than 6.5) and your HDL cholesterol is low (less than 0.9) then triglycerides can increase the risk of heart disease if they are greater than 1.7.

Triglyceride levels greater than 10 can cause inflammation of the pancreas which is a very serious condition.

How can I lower my triglyceride?

Reduce your intake of animal or hard vegetable fats, lose weight and reduce alcohol intake.

Alcohol is very powerful at elevating triglyceride.

See your family doctor if it remains elevated as you may require medication.

Find out more about CSIRO’s work in Diet & Nutrition.


Cholesterol explained

  Cholesterol is a type of fat that is part of all animal cells. It is essential for many of the body’s metabolic processes, including hormone and bile production, and to help the body use vitamin D. However, there’s no need to eat foods high in cholesterol. The body is very good at making its own cholesterol; you don’t need to help it along. In fact, too much cholesterol in your diet can lead to heart disease.

Cholesterol is essential
Cholesterol is produced by the liver and also made by most cells in the body. It is carried around in the blood by little ‘couriers’ called lipoproteins. We need blood cholesterol because the body uses it to:

  • Build the structure of cell membranes
  • Make hormones like oestrogen, testosterone and adrenaline
  • Help your metabolism work efficiently; for example, cholesterol is essential for your body to produce vitamin D
  • Produce bile acids, which help the body digest fat and absorb important nutrients.

Two types of cholesterol
Cholesterol is a white and waxy substance. There are two types of cholesterol:

  • Low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – called the ‘bad’ cholesterol because it goes into the bloodstream and clogs up your arteries.
  • High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol – called the ‘good’ cholesterol because it helps to take the ‘bad’ cholesterol out of the bloodstream.

Safe blood cholesterol levels
Health authorities recommend that cholesterol levels should be no higher than 5.5mmols per litre. Approximately 50 per cent of adult Australians have a blood cholesterol level above 5mmols per litre. This makes high blood cholesterol a major health concern in Australia.

Effects of high cholesterol levels
The liver is the main processing centre for cholesterol. When we eat animal fats, the liver returns the cholesterol it can’t use to our bloodstream. When there is too much cholesterol circulating in our bloodstream, it can build up into fatty deposits. These deposits cause the arteries to narrow and can eventually block the arteries completely, leading to heart disease and stroke.

You do not need cholesterol in your diet
You don’t need to eat foods that contain cholesterol; your body can produce all the cholesterol it needs. High cholesterol foods are usually foods high in saturated fats. These foods should be limited in a healthy diet.

Foods that contain cholesterol
The cholesterol in your diet comes mainly from the saturated fats found in animal products. All foods from animals contain some cholesterol. Foods from plants do not contain cholesterol. Other sources of dietary cholesterol are full fat dairy foods, eggs and some seafood.

How to avoid saturated fats
The best way to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol in your diet is to limit foods high in saturated fats. Try to avoid:

  • Fatty meats
  • Full fat dairy products
  • Processed meats like salami and sausages
  • Snack foods like chips
  • Most takeaway foods, especially deep fried foods
  • Cakes, biscuits and pastries.

Diet tips to help reduce your cholesterol
The most important thing you can do to reduce your cholesterol level is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You should try to:

  • Limit the amount of cholesterol-rich foods you eat.
  • Increase the amount and variety of fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods you have each day.
  • Choose low or reduced fat milk, yoghurt and other dairy products or have ‘added calcium’ soy drinks.
  • Choose lean meat (meat trimmed of fat or labelled as ‘heart smart’).
  • Limit fatty meats, including sausages and salami, and choose leaner sandwich meats like turkey breast or cooked lean chicken.
  • Have fish (fresh or canned) at least twice a week.
  • Replace butter and dairy blends with polyunsaturated margarines.
  • Include foods in your diet that are rich in soluble fibre and healthy fats, such as nuts, legumes and seeds.
  • Limit cheese and icecream to twice a week.

Lifestyle tips to help reduce your cholesterol
Changing some of your lifestyle habits may also help to reduce your cholesterol levels. Suggestions include:

  • Reduce your alcohol intake to no more than one or two drinks per day, and avoid binge drinking.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking increases the ability of LDL cholesterol to get into your cells and cause damage.
  • Exercise regularly (for example, at least 30 minutes of brisk walking daily). Exercise increases the HDL levels and reduces LDL levels in the body.
  • Lose any excess body fat. Being overweight may contribute to elevated blood LDL levels.
  • Control your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes. High blood sugars are linked to an increased risk of atherosclerosis.

Don’t cut out all dairy foods
Some people believe that cutting out dairy foods altogether is the safest option, but this isn’t true. Dairy foods are an important part of the daily diet and contribute many essential nutrients, especially calcium. You should switch to low fat types, which will reduce the risk from saturated fats.

You don’t need to avoid eggs and seafood
Some foods are high in cholesterol but they’re fine to eat in moderation, as long as your overall diet is low in saturated fats. For example:

  • Egg yolks – these are high in cholesterol but are rich in several other nutrients. It is recommended that you limit the number of eggs you eat to the equivalent of one a day (whole or in dishes).
  • Seafood – prawns and seafood contain some cholesterol but they are low in saturated fat and also contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Seafood is a healthy food and should not be avoided just because it contains cholesterol. However, avoid fried and battered seafood.

Foods that may lower cholesterol levels
Some studies have suggested that eating oats and legumes may lower LDL cholesterol. Food components like saponins (found in chickpeas, alfalfa sprouts and other foods) and sulphur compounds (like allicin – found in garlic and onions) may also have a positive effect on cholesterol levels.

Plant sterols can lower cholesterol levels
Plant sterols are found naturally in plant foods including sunflower and canola seeds, vegetable oils and (in smaller amounts) in nuts, legumes, cereals, fruit and vegetables. Some margarine has concentrated plant sterols added to it. Plant sterol enriched margarines may help to lower LDL cholesterol.

Medication may be needed
For some people diet and lifestyle changes are not enough. High blood cholesterol levels are also linked to genetics. Some people inherit altered genes that cause high cholesterol, and this can usually not be changed by lifestyle or diet.

If you are at risk of coronary heart disease and your LDL cholesterol level doesn’t drop after scrupulous attention to diet, your doctor may recommend medications to force your LDL levels down. However, diet and exercise will still be important, even if you are taking medication. Your doctor may also refer you to a specialist who treats cardiovascular disease.

Where to get help

Things to remember

  • Cholesterol is a fatty substance essential to many metabolic processes.
  • Your body needs cholesterol, but it can make its own – you don’t need to consume cholesterol in your diet.
  • High levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood have been linked to coronary heart disease.
  • Foods high in saturated fats tend to boost LDL cholesterol.

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I know this is not about health as such but, i just went and did my tax and for the first time i have to pay the ATO, this is because Greater Southern health and BCS have not taken enough tax out durning the financial year.   Apparently i’m not the first to be stung and stung hard.


Editer’s Grip

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Enfermedad de Machado-Joseph

Table of Contents (click to jump to sections)

What is Machado-Joseph Disease?
What are the different types of Machado-Joseph Disease?
What causes Machado-Joseph Disease?
How is Machado-Joseph Disease diagnosed?
How is Machado-Joseph Disease treated?
What research is being done?
Where can I get more information?

What is Machado-Joseph Disease?

Machado-Joseph disease (MJD)-also called spinocerebellar ataxia type 3-is a rare hereditary ataxia. (Ataxia is a general term meaning lack of muscle control.) The disease is characterized by clumsiness and weakness in the arms and legs, spasticity, a staggering lurching gait easily mistaken for drunkenness, difficulty with speech and swallowing, involuntary eye movements, double vision, and frequent urination. Some patients have dystonia (sustained muscle contractions that cause twisting of the body and limbs, repetitive movements, abnormal postures, and/or rigidity) or symptoms similar to those of Parkinson’s disease. Others have twitching of the face or tongue, or peculiar bulging eyes.

The severity of the disease is related to the age of onset, with earlier onset associated with a more severe form of the disease. Symptoms can begin any time between early adolescence and about 70 years of age. MJD is also a progressive disease, meaning that symptoms get worse with time. Life expectancy ranges from the mid-thirties for those with severe forms of MJD to a normal life expectancy for those with mild forms. For those who die early from the disease, the cause of death is often aspiration pneumonia.

The name, Machado-Joseph, comes from two families of Portuguese/Azorean descent who were among the first families described with the unique symptoms of the disease in the 1970s. The prevalence of the disease is still highest among people of Portuguese/Azorean descent. For immigrants of Portuguese ancestry in New England, the prevalence is around one in 4,000. The highest prevalence in the world, about one in 140, occurs on the small Azorean island of Flores. Recently, researchers have identified MJD in several family groups not of obvious Portuguese descent, including an African-American family from North Carolina, an Italian-American family, and several Japanese families. On a worldwide basis, MJD is the most prevalent autosomal dominant inherited form of ataxia, based on DNA studies.


What are the different types of Machado-Joseph Disease?

The types of MJD are distinguished by the age of onset and range of symptoms. Type I is characterized by onset between 10 and 30 years of age, fast progression, and severe dystonia and rigidity. Type II MJD generally begins between the ages of 20 and 50 years, has an intermediate progression, and causes symptoms that include spasticity (continuous, uncontrollable muscle contractions), spastic gait, and exaggerated reflex responses. Type III MJD patients have an onset between 40 and 70 years of age, a relatively slow progression, and some muscle twitching, muscle atrophy, and unpleasant sensations such as numbness, tingling, cramps, and pain in the hands, feet, and limbs. Almost all MJD patients experience vision problems, including double vision (diplopia) or blurred vision, loss of ability to distinguish color and/or contrast, and inability to control eye movements. Some MJD patients also experience Parkinson’s-like symptoms, such as slowness of movement, rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk, tremor or trembling in the hands, and impaired balance and coordination.


What causes Machado-Joseph Disease?

MJD is classified as a disorder of movement, specifically a spinocerebellar ataxia. In these disorders, degeneration of cells in an area of the brain called the hindbrain leads to deficits in movement. The hindbrain includes the cerebellum (a bundle of tissue about the size of an apricot located at the back of the head), the brainstem, and the upper part of the spinal cord. MJD is an inherited, autosomal dominant disease, meaning that if a child inherits one copy of the defective gene from either parent, the child will develop symptoms of the disease. People with a defective gene have a 50 percent chance of passing the mutation on to their children.

MJD belongs to a class of genetic disorders called triplet repeat diseases. The genetic mutation in triplet repeat diseases involves the extensive abnormal repetition of three letters of the DNA genetic code. In the case of MJD the code “CAG” is repeated within a gene located on chromosome 14q. The MJD gene produces a mutated protein called ataxin-3. This protein accumulates in affected cells and forms intranuclear inclusion bodies, which are insoluble spheres located in the nucleus of the cell. These spheres interfere with the normal operation of the nucleus and cause the cell to degenerate and die.

One trait of MJD and other triplet repeat diseases is a phenomenon called anticipation, in which the children of affected parents tend to develop symptoms of the disease much earlier in life, have a faster progression of the disease, and experience more severe symptoms. This is due to the tendency of the triplet repeat mutation to expand with the passing of genetic material to offspring. A longer expansion is associated with an earlier age of onset and a more severe form of the disease. It is impossible to predict precisely the course of the disease for an individual based solely on the repeat length.


How is Machado-Joseph Disease diagnosed?

Physicians diagnose MJD by recognizing the symptoms of the disease and by taking a family history. They ask detailed questions about family members who show, or showed, symptoms of the disease, the kinds of symptoms these relatives had, the ages of disease onset, and the progression and severity of symptoms. A definitive diagnosis of MJD can only be made with a genetic test. Unfortunately, many legal and ethical considerations, such as loss of health insurance and employment discrimination, may discourage some individuals with symptoms from getting tested. For the same reasons, many physicians recommend against genetic testing for those individuals who have a family history of the disease but do not show symptoms. For more information on genetic testing and counseling, please consult the organizations listed in the section titled “Where can I get more information?


How is Machado-Joseph Disease treated?

MJD is incurable, but some symptoms of the disease can be treated. For those patients who show parkinsonian features, levodopa therapy can help for many years. Treatment with antispasmodic drugs, such as baclofen, can help reduce spasticity. Botulinum toxin can also treat severe spasticity as well as some symptoms of dystonia. However, botulinum toxin should be used as a last resort due to the possibility of side effects, such as swallowing problems (dysphagia). Speech problems (dysarthria) and dysphagia can be treated with medication and speech therapy. Wearing prism glasses can reduce blurred or double vision, but eye surgery has only short-term benefits due to the progressive degeneration of eye muscles. Physiotherapy can help patients cope with disability associated with gait problems, and physical aids, such as walkers and wheelchairs, can assist the patient with everyday activities. Other problems, such as sleep disturbances, cramps, and urinary dysfunction, can be treated with medications and medical care.


What research is being done?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) supports research on MJD and other neurodegenerative diseases in an effort to learn how to better treat, prevent, and even cure these diseases. Ongoing research includes efforts to better understand the genetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms that underlie triplet repeat diseases. Other research areas include the development of novel therapies to treat the symptoms of MJD, efforts to identify diagnostic markers and to improve current diagnostic procedures for the disease, and population studies to identify affected families.

Where can I get more information?

For more information on neurological disorders or research programs funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, contact the Institute’s Brain Resources and Information Network (BRAIN) at:

P.O. Box 5801
Bethesda, MD 20824
(800) 352-9424

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Henoch-Schonlein purpura


Henoch-Schonlein purpura is a disease that involves purple spots on the skin, joint pain, gastrointestinal problems, and glomerulonephritis (a type of kidney disorder).

Alternative Names

Anaphylactoid purpura; Vascular purpura


Henoch-Schonlein is a type of hypersensitivity vasculitis and inflammatory response within the blood vessel. It is caused by an abnormal response of the immune system. It is unclear why this occurs.

The syndrome is usually seen in children, but it may affect people of any age. It is more common in boys than in girls. Many people with Henoch-Schonlein purpura had an upper respiratory illness in the previous weeks.


Exams and Tests

The doctor will examine your body and look at your skin. The physical exam will reveal skin lesions and joint tenderness.

A urinalysis shows microscopic blood in the urine. A skin biopsy shows vasculitis.


There is no specific treatment. Most cases go away on their own without treatment. If symptoms persist, your doctor may recommend therapy with corticosteroids such as prednisone.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The disease usually resolves spontaneously without treatment.

Possible Complications

  • Symptoms return
  • Kidney problems (may occur in rare cases)

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:

  • Symptoms of Henoch-Scholnlein purpura develop, particularly if they last for more than a few days
  • If low urine output develops after an episode of Henoch-Schonlein purpura


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The purpose of this study was to describe the phenotypic characteristics of an inherited myxomatous valvular dystrophy mapped to Xq28.


Myxomatous valve dystrophies are a frequent cause of valvular diseases, the most common being idiopathic mitral valve prolapse. They form a group of heterogeneous diseases difficult to subclassify. The first mapping of the gene for a myxoid valvular dystrophy to Xq28 allowed investigation of the phenotype of affected members in a large family and characterization of the disease.


Among the 318 members in the pedigree, 89 agreed to participate in this study. Phenotypic characteristics were investigated using clinical examination, transthoracic echocardiography and biological analysis (F.VIII activity). Genetic status was based on haplotype analysis.


Among 46 males, 9 were hemizygous to the mutant allele and had an obvious mitral and/or aortic myxomatous valve defect, and 4 had undergone valvular surgery. All had typical mitral valve prolapse associated in six cases with moderate to severe aortic regurgitation. The valve defect cosegregated with mild hemophilia A (F.VIII activity = 0.32 ± 0.05). The 37 remaining males had normal valves and normal F.VIII activity. Heterozygous women were identified on the basis of their haplotypes. Among the 17 women heterozygous to the mutant allele, moderate mitral regurgitation was present in 8, associated with mild mitral valve prolapse in 1 and aortic regurgitation in 3, whereas 2 women had isolated mild aortic regurgitant murmur. In heterozygotes, the penetrance value was 0.60 but increased with age.


X-linked myxomatous valvular disease is characterized by mitral valve dystrophy frequently associated with degeneration of the aortic valves affecting males and, to a lower severity, females. The first localization of a gene for myxomatous valvular diseases is the first step for the subclassification of these diseases.

Abbreviations and Acronyms
AML = anterior mitral leaflet
F.VIII = antihemophilic factor VIII
LAA = left atrial area
LVOTD = left ventricular outflow tract diameter
MVD = myxomatous valve dystrophies
PML = posterior mitral leaflet
RJA = regurgitating jet area

Valvular disease with myxomatous degeneration forms a complex group of disorders. Common histological features and a clinical continuum from isolated nonsyndromic valvular defects (e.g., idiopathic mitral valve prolapse) to multivalvular diseases and syndromic disorders (e.g., Marfan syndrome) make it difficult to subclassify these heterogeneous and complex pathologies. Defects in fibrillin (1) and collagen genes (2) have already been identified in syndromic valvular disease. In other valvular dystrophies with myxomatous degeneration, identification of genetic defects would appear to be an essential step in their subclassification.

In nonsyndromic valvular dystrophies with myxomatous degeneration, idiopathic mitral valve prolapse is by far the most common defect, occurring in 2% to 4% of the population (3) and displaying a broad clinical spectrum from mild valve defects without clinical repercussions to severe valvular disease (4). The valve anomaly is the main defect, but some studies are in favor of a more diffuse disease affecting other cardiac structures (5). Although the exact prevalence of inherited cases is still uncertain, most familial forms appear to be inherited in an autosomal dominant manner with incomplete penetrance (6). There is also clinical evidence of genetic heterogeneity (7). Despite autosomal transmission, the disease is twice as frequent in females as in males (8), but more severe in the latter (9). A second type of inherited nonsyndromic valvular dystrophy was identified three decades ago by Monteleone and Fagan (10). This apparently rare disease, known as sex-linked valvular dysplasia, is supposedly transmitted as an X-linked recessive trait and may involve one or several valves in affected males. Both forms display classical histological abnormalities of myxomatous valve degeneration, with fragmentation of collagenous bundles within the valve fibrosa and accumulation of proteoglycan.

Because of the presence of valvular anomalies in type IV Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, it has been suggested that genes coding for collagen isoforms could be implicated in nonsyndromic valvular diseases. However, genetic studies have failed to find a link between collagen genes and familial mitral valve prolapse (11,12). We recently identified a large French family with myxoid valvular dystrophy. Its cosegregation with mild hemophilia A enabled us to map the disease gene on Xq28 and characterize the genetic status of each patient (13).

The purpose of this study is to describe the clinical characteristics of inherited X-linked valvular dystrophy. It shows that heterozygous women, in addition to obviously affected hemizygous men, can be mildly affected by the disease. The fact that penetrance is complete in men and incomplete in heterozygous women (for whom it increases with age) provides new insight into the clinical characteristics of myxomatous valvular diseases and should improve genetic analysis of inherited valvular diseases in general.


In our familial study, the proband was a 16-year-old boy with severe aortic regurgitation as a result of valvular dystrophy. During his hospitalization for clinical evaluation before valvular surgery, mild asymptomatic hemophilia A was detected. Subsequent inquiry revealed that a cousin had mitral valve regurgitation due to valvular dystrophy and led to the identification of a very large five-generation family.

The study was conducted according to French guidelines for genetic research. Informed written consent was obtained from each family member. Baseline measurement included a review of medical history, a physical examination with particular attention to the cardiovascular system and any connective tissues diseases, a 12-lead electrocardiogram, a two-dimensional echocardiography with color-coded Doppler analysis, blood samples for genetic studies and quantification of antihemophilic factor VIII. Ophthalmologic examination was performed in two affected members and was normal.

Echocardiography. The phenotypic assignment of family members was based on echocardiographic examination.

Transthoracic M-mode and two-dimensional echocardiograms were recorded according to the criteria of the American Society of Echocardiography (14) using a Sonos 2000 (Hewlett-Packard Inc., Andover, Massachusetts) with a 3.5-MHz probe, or a Sequoia C256 (Acuson Inc., Mountain View, California) equipped with a multifrequency probe (3.5 to 2.0 MHz). Examinations were recorded on SVHS videotapes for further analysis. All recordings were analyzed in a blinded manner by two experienced physicians. Measurements of mitral valves were performed on parasternal long-axis two-dimensional images (15). The length of each leaflet was determined just before valve closure. The thickness of the free edge of the mitral leaflets was measured on a selected diastolic frame that clearly separated the mitral leaflets and chordae. Valves were considered dystrophic when the thickness was superior to 4 mm. Mitral annular diameter was calculated by measuring the length of the line between the anterior and the posterior leaflet hinge points at end-diastole, just before the onset of the QRS complex, and at end-systole, before valve opening. Mitral valve prolapse was considered to exist when two-dimensional recordings in the parasternal long-axis view showed protrusion of mitral leaflets into the left atrium, crossing the line between the annular hinge points, and when the coaptation point of the leaflets remained at or above the mitral annular plane during systole (16). Mitral regurgitation was estimated quantitatively by transthoracic color Doppler flow mapping in three spatial planes. Doppler color gain was optimized by first turning down the setting completely and then increasing the scale gradually until static background noise appeared (17). The severity of mitral regurgitation was assessed by calculating the maximum regurgitating jet area (RJA) expressed as a percentage of left atrial area (RJA/LAA). Regurgitant flow signals localized in the vicinity of valve closure were considered as physiological regurgitation, and these patients were classified as unaffected (18). Mitral regurgitation was rated as mild when RJA/LAA was <20%, moderate when ≥20% to <40%, and severe when ≥40% (19).

Measurements of left ventricular outflow tract diameter (LVOTD) were obtained from parasternal long-axis two-dimensional images at the level of aortic cusp insertion, and aortic root dimensions were calculated from M-mode tracings. Aortic regurgitation was considered to exist if an abnormal diastolic flow originating from aortic cusps was identified in the left ventricular outflow tract. The diameter of the regurgitated jet (AJD) was measured at its origin in the left outflow tract. The AJD/LVOTD ratio was calculated for quantification of aortic regurgitation (20), which was rated as mild when <25%, moderate when ≥25% and <40% and severe when ≥40%. Tricuspid valve images were recorded in four-chamber apical views, and the pulmonary valve was analyzed in high left parasternal short-axis view.

Patients were defined as affected when echocardiographic examination showed mitral valve dystrophy associated or not with mitral valve prolapse, aortic valve dystrophy or mild to severe aortic regurgitation.

Biological analysis. Antihemophilic factor VIII (F.VIII) activity was estimated by a one-stage clotting assay based on activated partial thromboplastin time, using F.VIII-deficient plasma (Diagnostica Stago, Gennevilliers, France) on an STA analyzer (Diagnostica Stago). The Second International Reference Preparation for Factor VIII-related activity (National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, London, United Kingdom) was used as a standard.

Genetic study. A detailed linkage study of this family has been reported elsewhere (13).

Only male phenotypes were used to calculate the lod score because the number of affected males was sufficient to produce a highly significant score. Moreover, penetrance in obligate female carriers (Fig. 1), unlike that in males, was not complete and could have been misleading. Two-point linkage analysis found a maximal lod score of 5.91 at {theta} = 0 for markers INT-13 and DXS1108. Based on the results of the linkage study, patients who had valvular defect and who inherited the complete haplotype were affected. Females heterozygous to this haplotype were defined as carriers.

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Figure 1 Pedigree of the family. Black symbols denote males simultaneously affected by severe X-linked myxoid valvular dysplasia and hemophilia A, and hatched symbols indicate women showing abnormalities in echocardiography. Markers are not shown in order to simply the figure. Black bars represent the markers inherited from the ancestor who transmitted the disease. Marker order was as follows (top to bottom): DXS998, DXS8091, DXS8011, DXS8061, INT-13 and DXS1108. Blackened arrows indicate recombinations of parental alleles. A recombination event in male III-5 with a normal phenotype allowed us to delineate the linked area between marker DXS8011 and Xqter.

Statistical methods. Statistical analysis was performed using Student’s t test and the Mann-Whitney U test. A p value of less than 0.05 was considered significant. Results are expressed as the mean ± SD.


The proband, a 16-year-old boy (Patient V-11), had class II dyspnea according to the New York Heart Association classification. He was of normal size and morphology, and a physical examination found no connective tissue or joint abnormalities. Cardiac auscultation revealed aortic regurgitant murmur, and echocardiography showed severe aortic regurgitation. Aortic root dimensions were normal as confirmed by a nuclear magnetic resonance study of the thoracic aorta. The left ventricle was enlarged (end-diastolic diameter 34 mm/m2), with normal systolic function. Mild hemophilia A was diagnosed at the time of aortic valve replacement.

Histological examination of the excised valve showed typical features of myxomatous valvular disease, with marked thickening of the free edge of the valve. Light microscopy using blue-alcyan, hemalun-eosin-safran and Weigert stains was performed, showing extensive accumulation of proteoglycan and fragmentation of the collagenous bundle. Aortic root analysis was strictly normal.

The same hematologic disease was identified in his cousin (Patient V-9) when he underwent valvuloplasty for severe mitral regurgitation due to mitral valve dystrophy. This second case led to the identification of a very large family.

Among the 318 members of the pedigree, 302 are still alive and 89 accepted to participate in the study (Fig. 1): 43 females (36 ± 17 years) and 46 males (22 ± 15 years). A valve defect was found in 22 (9 males and 13 females) of these subjects. None of the subjects was the result of a consanguineous mating. No family member showed clinical evidence of syndromic disorders such as Marfan or Elhers-Danlos disease.

Clinical characteristics of males. Among the 46 males (Table 1), 9 had obvious aortic and/or mitral valve defect and were classified as affected, including 4 who underwent valvular surgery. Subsequent to surgery, one patient was asymptomatic and three had dyspnea (two class II, one class I). Seven of the nine affected males had mitral regurgitant murmur. No differences were found between affected and unaffected patients concerning age and body surface area.

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Table 1 Echocardiographic Characteristics of Men

Mitral valve defect
All affected men had mitral valvular dystrophy (Fig. 2), and one had undergone mitral valvuloplasty when he was 18 years old (Patient V-9). Mitral valves were characterized by thicker anterior (AML) and posterior (PML) leaflets, longer AML and PML, and larger mitral annular diameters at end-diastole and end-systole. Mitral valve dystrophy was associated with moderate billowing in all but one (Patient V-10) of the affected males (mean anterior leaflet prolapse: 3.1 ± 1.5 mm). Mitral regurgitation was moderate in four patients (IV-48, V-10, V-11, V-13; RJA/LAA = 0.37 ± 0.02) and severe in five (III-12, III-6, III-16, IV-50, V-9; RJA/LAA = 0.46 ± 0.07).

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Figure 2 Parasternal long-axis two-dimensional view, at end diastole (A) and end systole (B), performed in an affected male (Patient IV-48), showing the structural abnormalities of the mitral valve with thickening of mitral valve leaflets (A) and a mild prolapse (B).

Aortic valve defect
As aortic valve dystrophy is difficult to assess by transthoracic echocardiography, we chose to quantify aortic regurgitation, which was associated with mitral valve dystrophy in six affected men. In three of these patients (III-6, III-16 and V-11), the severity of aortic regurgitation led to valve replacement at 42, 24 and 16 years of age, respectively. Histological examination of the aortic valves found abnormalities similar to those described in the proband. In the other three men (III-12, IV-50, and V-10), aortic regurgitation was quantified as mild or moderate, with an AJD/LVOTD of 0.1, 0.24 and 0.26, respectively. Aortic root diameters and the left ventricular outflows tract were normal and did not differ significantly in affected and unaffected men. The three remaining affected men had no detectable aortic valve defect.

Affected males had larger left ventricular diastolic diameters, whereas left atrial diameters did not differ significantly. Ejection fractions were similar in the two groups.

Finally, the phenotypic status of men could easily be characterized because affected patients had obvious valvular dystrophy clearly differentiating them from the normal phenotype.

Hematologic defect
Because of low F.VIII biological activity in the proband and his cousin (0.31 and 0.29, respectively), hemophilia A was suspected in cosegregation with the valve defect. Von Willebrand disease was excluded, and mild hemophilia A was detected in all men affected by valvular disease, whereas all unaffected men had normal F.VIII activity (0.32 ± 0.05 vs. 0.91 ± 0.29, p < 0.0001) (Fig. 3).

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Figure 3 Comparison of F.VIII activity of males affected by the valvular disease (A, 32 ± 9%), heterozygous women (B, 75 ± 26%) and nonaffected members (C, 105 ± 35%). Affected males have a significantly lower F.VIII activity (p < 0.0001) than heterozygous and normal subjects. Heterozygous women have significantly lower F.VIII activity (p < 0.02) than normal subjects.

Clinical characteristics of women. The linkage study was the key factor for detailed clinical analysis of X-linked valvular dystrophy, allowing identification of female carriers on the basis of their haplotypes and analysis of the expression of the diseased gene in heterozygous women (Fig. 1). Among the 43 females in the pedigree, 17 who inherited the entire haplotype were heterozygous to the disease-associated gene. Four other women (III-34, IV-41, V-1 and V-12) had inherited part of the haplotype, with recombination events within the candidate region, so that their genetic status is unknown.

Characteristics of the 17 heterozygous women. All women were asymptomatic, but echocardiography identified 10 (mean age 40 ± 15 years) with mitral and/or aortic valve abnormalities. Eight had holosystolic murmur (III-3, III-8, III-24, III-30, IV-18, IV-25 and IV-49) and moderate mitral regurgitation (mean RJA/LAA = 0.31 = 0.04), with mitral valve prolapse in one and mild aortic regurgitation in three. Two women had isolated mild aortic regurgitation.

None of these women had obvious valvular dystrophy, and echocardiographic parameters such as leaflet thickness and mitral annulus, aortic root, left ventricular outflow tract and the left ventricle diastolic diameters did not differ in heterozygous and unaffected women (Table 2).

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Table 2 Echocardiographic Characteristics of Women

In two heterozygous women, the valvular defect could have been due to another cause. Patient II-3, the 83-year-old mother of two affected males, had isolated moderate mitral regurgitation without valvular dystrophy or mitral valve prolapse and a history of systemic hypertension. Patient IV-26, the 19-year-old daughter of an affected male, had an atypical valve defect with moderate pulmonary regurgitation without left valve defect.

According to echocardiographic data for genetically affected women, the penetrance of the disease in heterozygous was estimated as between 0.59 and 0.71, depending on the phenotypic status of the last two cases. The penetrance of the disease-associated gene in heterozygous women was age dependent, but valve defects were seen in 5 out of 7 women over 40 years of age and in only 5 out of 10 under 40.

Characteristics of women with undetermined genetic status. Echocardiographic examinations were normal in the four women (III-34, IV-41, V-1 and V-12) with recombination events in the candidate area. The genetic status of Patient III-34 was considered normal, as her son, who inherited the same haplotype, was unaffected.

Characteristics of women with normal genetic status. If it is assumed that Patient III-34 did not inherit the “diseased” haplotype, 23 women can be considered to have normal genetic status, including 3 (III-20, IV-1, IV-4) with a valve defect and 20 with normal echocardiography.

Patient III-20, a 64-year-old woman with isolated mild mitral regurgitation (RJA/LAA = 0.12) without valvular dystrophy or mitral valve prolapse, had received thoracic radiotherapy for breast cancer 10 years before. Patient IV-1, with severe mitral regurgitation (RJA/LAA = 0.49), had experienced an episode of prolonged fever, treated by antibiotics, shortly after delivery 10 years before. A diagnosis of endocarditis was considered but never confirmed, despite the occurrence of mitral regurgitation. In these two cases, the valve defect could have been secondary to radiotherapy or endocarditis. Patient IV-4, a 33-year-old woman with mild mitral regurgitation (RJA/LAA = 0.20) associated with moderate aortic regurgitation (AJD/LVOTD = 0.27), had no clinical history indicative of acquired valvular disease. When these cases were taken into consideration, a risk of phenocopy of 0.12 was found for heterozygous women.


Valvular dystrophy with myxomatous degeneration is a frequent cause of valve defects. It has been well described in mitral valve prolapse (21) and also occurs in aortic regurgitation (22,23). Although most affected patients are asymptomatic, they risk complications such as endocarditis, spontaneous cordal rupture and sudden death. Moreover, progressive worsening of valvular regurgitation can lead to heart failure. Within the last decade, this disease has become an increasing cause of valvular surgery (representing almost 20% of such patients in our institution [unpublished data]).

The clinical spectrum of myxomatous valvular disorders, ranging from isolated mild defects to severe multivalvular lesions, is in favor of a heterogeneous disease that is in fact difficult to subclassify because of the absence of specific features, even at the histological level. To date, only genes for syndromic diseases have been mapped or cloned (1–3), but the identification of genetic defects would appear to be the key factor for determining subclassifications.

Isolated mitral dystrophy associated with billowing is the most common form of myxomatous valvular disease. It is easy to diagnose an obviously affected patient but the continuum from normal to severely affected valves, and from isolated to multivalvular defects, can complicate the identification of affected patients (5).

In our study, men were either clearly normal or affected; the latter all had an obvious mitral valve dystrophy with thicker and longer leaflets and a mild prolapse similar to abnormalities described in floppy mitral valve (21), associated with aortic regurgitation in two-thirds of cases. Valvular degeneration was not associated with other detectable cardiovascular or morphological defects. Clinical examinations of affected patients indicated a nonsyndromic disease because no features of a connective tissue disease such as Marfan or Elher-Danlos syndrome were detected, nor were any signs of osteogenesis imperfecta. Moreover, the thoracic aorta, particularly the aortic root, was echocardiographically and histologically normal, and skin histology performed in one affected patient was normal.

An X-linked disease with anticipation. Several factors indicated that the inherited valvular disease was X-linked. There was no male-to-male transmission, the severity of myxomatous valvular disease was far greater in males and all affected men had mild hemophilia, whereas those with normal valves showed normal F.VIII activity. This also suggested that both valvular dysplasia and hemophilia A were cosegregated in the family and that the gene responsible for the valvular dysplasia was closely linked to the factor VIII gene.

One of the most striking features of this disease is a tendency toward earlier severity from generation to generation. Reconstruction of the haplotype of ancestors indicated that the male in generation I was probably genetically affected and responsible for the transmission of the disease. Although no clinical cardiac analysis exists for this man, it is unlikely that he had severe valvular disease because he died at 65 years of age from peritonitis without any indication of cardiovascular symptoms. In generation III, three males were affected. The disease was identified when they were in their 40s, and two of them underwent valvular surgery, at ages 51 and 49 years. In generation IV, two men were affected. The diagnosis of valvular disease was made during their 20s, and at ages 30 and 24 years, they are still asymptomatic with moderate mitral regurgitation. Finally, four males of generation V are affected by the disease. Two underwent valvular surgery at the age of 17 years because of severe mitral (V-11) or aortic (V-9) valvular regurgitation, and two others (16 and 12 years old) are severely affected. This apparent tendency toward earlier severity could actually be due to improvement of echocardiographic techniques. However, similar tendencies were noted in two previous descriptions of this disease. In the family reported by Monteleone and Fagan (10), a fourth-generation patient died of cardiac failure due to valvular disease when he was eight months old, whereas several men from the previous generation were still alive, although clinically affected. In the family described by Newbury-Ecob et al (24), a fourth-generation baby died from valve defect and cardiac failure 24 h after birth, whereas his grandfather in the second generation was asymptomatic until the age of 25 years and underwent valve replacement at the age of 41 years. This tendency toward earlier severity, called anticipation, needs to be confirmed in other families.

An X-linked disease with mildly affected female carriers. Our clinical observations differ from those previously described for X-linked valvular dysplasia, even though the same genetic disease is probably involved. An important result not previously described is the identification of an intermediate phenotype in heterozygous women. With the mapping of the gene in monozygous males, it has become possible to identify female carriers on the basis of their haplotypes and to analyze the expression of the disease gene. As has been demonstrated for idiopathic mitral valve prolapse, there was no clear delineation between normal and abnormal valves, and there is a continuum from normal to abnormal valves because some heterozygous women in our study had normal echocardiography, whereas others had mitral or aortic regurgitation, giving a penetrance value of 59% to 71%, which increased with age. Furthermore, valve defects were less severe than in men, as shown by the absence of differences in mitral valve thickness, length and diameter between affected heterozygous and normal women and by a better outcome (no valvular surgery). This could have been due to the low accuracy of transthoracic echocardiography in identifying small valve defects.

Implications for genetics of myxomatous valve dystrophies. The clinical phenotype of patients with mitral valve prolapse constitutes a continuum from Marfan syndrome to isolated mitral valve prolapse. To emphasize the involvement of mitral valve prolapse, aorta, skeleton and skin, patients with connective tissue disorder have been described using the acronym MASS phenotype (25). Isolated mitral valve prolapse is by far the most frequent syndrome (4), and one study has identified at least two different phenotypes with a strong family pattern (7). Both forms appear to be inherited in an autosomal dominant manner (6). This mode of inheritance was also identified in other studies that have reported family cases (26–28). However, epidemiological studies have shown striking results that can hardly be explained by this mode of inheritance. The mitral valve prolapse is twice as frequent in females as in males (8), it is more severe in men than in women (9), as confirmed by several surgical series of mitral valve prolapse as well as myxoid aortic valve regurgitation in which the patients were largely male (22,23), and no clear delineation exists between normal and affected patients, especially women. Although these results could have been due to hormonal as well as environmental factors, they are still surprising for an autosomal dominant disease.

Contrary to idiopathic mitral valve prolapse, X-linked valvular dystrophy seems to be a rare disease, described only twice (10,24). This could have been due to the rarity of the disease or to misinterpretation in the mode of inheritance of the valvular defect. Indeed, the presence of affected heterozygous women, particularly in small pedigree, the tendency toward earlier severity (the anticipation of the disease), the risk of phenocopies and the low sensitivity of echocardiography could be clinically misleading. Owing to the presence of these confusing factors, it is possible that some patients with myxomatous valve defects may have been affected by an unidentified X-linked valvular disease. In this respect, only male-to-male transmission can rule out an X-linked disease.

Conclusions. It is quite likely that myxomatous valvular diseases are heterogeneous and that myxoid degeneration is the final pathway for several protein defects that will not be identified with conventional clinical tools. The first localization of a gene for nonsyndromic myxomatous valvular diseases should facilitate the subclassification of this complex group of diseases. Ultimately, the cloning of the gene will give a new insight into the pathophysiology of these diseases.


This study was supported in part by INSERM and the DRRC of Nantes.


  1. Dietz HC, Cutting GR, Pyeritz RE, et al. Marfan syndrome caused by a recurrent de novo missense mutation in the fibrillin gene. Nature. 1991;352:337–339[CrossRef][Medline]
  2. Superti-Furga A, Gugler E, Gitzelmann R, Steinmann B. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome type IV: a multi-exon deletion in one of the two COL3A1 alleles affecting structure, stability, and processing of type III procollagen. J Biol Chem. 1988;263:6226–6232[Abstract/Free Full Text]
  3. Savage D, Garrison RJ, Devereux RB, et al. Mitral valve prolapse in the general population. I. Epidemiologic features: the Framingham study. Am Heart J. 1983;106:571–576[CrossRef][Medline]

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A Hobart discrimination hearing has heard the risk of Tasmania’s blood supply being infected by HIV would be extremely low if gay men who practice safe sex were allowed to donate blood.

The risk calculations were made by the lawyer representing a man who has accused the Red Cross of discrimination.

The Red Cross refused Michael Cain’s blood because he had been in a gay relationship.

Mr Cain argues screening should be based on safe sexual practices, not sexual orientation.

Canadian risk analysis expert William Leiss told the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal such a change would increase the risk of infection.

But Mr Cain’s lawyer, Peter Tree, said statistics showed if gay men who have safe sex were allowed to donate blood, the risk of Tasmania’s blood supply being infected by HIV would be once every 5,769 years.

Dr Leiss said that could be right, but such a screening system had not been researched.

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No need for Aust trans fat ban: food regulator

The regulatory body that sets food standards in Australia says there is no need at this stage to ban food outlets from selling food that has trans fats added to it.

In America, California has become the first state there to ban restaurants and food retailers from using trans fats – artificial fats that are linked to coronary and heart disease.

But Food Standards Australia New Zealand says local surveys have found that, unlike many other countries, Australians consume a low level of trans fats.

It says only 0.6 per cent of their daily kilojoules comes from trans fats – well below World Health Organisation recommendations.

FSANZ spokeswoman Lydia Buchtmann says efforts are underway to keep the level of consumption low.

“Our concern is that people might overreact as they have overseas where there are bans in place and move back to unhealthy saturated fats, to start cooking in lard for example, which would be much worse because we are actually consuming far too high levels of saturated fats,” she said.

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