OBJECTIVE: We tested the hypothesis that short telomere length is associated with increased risk of myocardial infarction, ischemic heart disease, and early death. METHODS AND RESULTS: We measured leukocyte telomere length in 2 prospective studies of 19 838 Danish general population participants from the Copenhagen City Heart Study and the Copenhagen General Population Study. Participants were followed for up to 19 years for incident myocardial infarction (n=929), ischemic heart disease (n=2038), and death (n=4342). Follow-up was 100% complete. Telomere length decreased linearly with increasing age in women and men in both studies (P=7×10(-74) to P=3×10(-125)). Multifactorially adjusted hazard ratios were 1.10 (95% CI 1.01-1.19) for myocardial infarction, 1.06 (1.00-1.11) for ischemic heart disease, and 1.09 (1.05-1.13) for early death per 1000-base pair decrease in telomere length. The multifactorially adjusted hazard ratios for the shortest versus the longest decile of telomere length were 1.49 (1.07-2.07) for myocardial infarction, 1.24 (1.01-1.53) for ischemic heart disease, and 1.25 (1.07-1.46) for early death. CONCLUSIONS: Short telomere length is associated with only modestly increased risk of myocardial infarction, ischemic heart disease, and early death.
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