Dr. Jean-François Légaré

Dr. Jean-François Légaré

Dr. Jean-François Légaré

Cardiovascular

Insidious risk factors: 
Dr. Jean-François Légaré explores why so many Maritimers develop heart failure

High blood pressure, diabetes and obesity contribute to heart disease in many different ways. This is an enormous concern in Maritime Canada, where one-eighth of the adult population has diabetes, one-quarter is obese, and one-fifth has high blood pressure.

Cardiac surgeon and heart researcher Dr. Jean-François Légaré is exploring how these very common conditions lead to heart failure—in particular, a form of heart failure known as diastolic heart failure.

“In diastolic heart failure, the heart muscle gets stiff and can’t relax enough to pump efficiently,” explains Dr. Légaré, director of cardiac surgery at the New Brunswick Heart Centre. “The most common cause is high blood pressure, but diabetes and obesity also play a role.”

More women than men are affected by this kind of heart failure. And, as Dr. Légaré notes, here is as yet no treatment or cure—it has to be prevented.

Dr. Légaré is working with tissue samples and clinical data collected from patients across the Maritimes—and stored in a biobank at Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick— to learn more about the mechanisms of diastolic heart failure. Funds raised through Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation’s Spring 2019 Molly Appeal will support the further development of this biobank.

“We can store an unlimited number of heart tissue samples in the biobank,” notes Dr. Légaré. “The ability to work with more samples will dramatically increase the reliability and impact of our results.”

A major part of Dr. Légaré’s research is to understand how high blood pressure and metabolic disorders trigger inflammation and the formation of scar tissue in the heart. Over time this reduces the heart’s blood-pumping efficiency and leads to heart failure. Ultimately, Dr. Légaré hopes to find a signal that can be blocked or altered with medication to prevent cardiac scarring and diastolic heart failure.

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