Can Healthy lifestyle offset genetic risk for heart disease?


15 May, 2018


The adage that you can't change your genes may be true, but research suggests that lifestyle choices can modify some of the influence your genes have on your heart health and significantly reduce the number of heart attacks and other heart issues.

The importance of a healthy lifestyle to improve heart health, especially for those with a family history of heart disease had been advocated by doctors, since long. But, it was always believed that, if you had high genetic risk, you were more likely to have a cardiac event and there was nothing you could do about it.

However, according to the results of the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers have shown that, a healthy lifestyle can cut your risk of heart disease in half, despite your genes are piled against you.

Family history doesn’t always mean genetic risk.

Family history of heart attacks doesn’t essentially mean you have high genetic risk. There is a slight connection, yet, it’s not high. Also, you could have no family history of heart disease and yet have a high genetic risk.  

Genes can likely play some role in passing down the risk of heart disease through families and they can also be responsible for passing down conditions such as high blood pressure high cholesterol levels or Type 2 diabetes which are risk factors of heart diseases. However, diseases that are common in your family may not be always caused by inherited genetic changes. They’re often caused by multiple factors shared among families, such as, environment and lifestyle. The, risk for heart disease can increase even more when heredity combines with unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Genetic testing is the only way to know whether you have inherited a gene, known to increase your risk for heart disease. But, that’s not done often.  Knowing that your family carries a higher risk for heart disease, is a good reason to keep your heart as healthy as possible.

No matter what, a healthy lifestyle is your best bet!
Regardless of your family history or genetics, you can reduce your risk for heart problems with lifestyle changes - which includes eating healthy, exercising regularly, aiming for healthy weight, managing stress and not smoking.
Your doctor can calculate your overall heart disease risk based on your family history, a physical examination, the results of your health numbers and information about your lifestyle.

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