A Healthy Lifestyle Can Intercept Genetic Risk of Heart Disease

Posted 02/22/2017 | By HealthCorps

You’ve likely heard the parable, “genes are not your destiny,” but you still probably think that, to a large extent, they are.  Maybe you look like your mom, or you have the same disposition as your dad, or maybe you have a family history for a disease and you believe that is your fate.  Not so fast, according to a new study published in New England Journal of Medicine. Lifestyle can intercept genetics.

The researchers wanted to examine how lifestyle can mitigate the risk you may have inherited for heart disease.  The researchers examined genetic risk and lifestyle patterns of more than 31,000 men and women in three separate cohorts.  Healthy lifestyle was defined as having at least three of the following criteria:

  • Not being obese
  • Not smoking
  • Exercising at least once a week
  • Eating a balanced, healthy diet

The researchers found that having a healthy lifestyle as defined above was associated with a 46% lowered risk of developing heart disease in people genetically predisposed to heart disease.

Life coaches, fitness experts and doctors often point to patients who seem to defy strong genetic patterns.  Though you may not be able to completely remove genetic impact, it appears that you can delay “inevitable disease by years or even decades” when you commit to healthy lifestyle habits.  To add to the four habits mentioned above you might consider:

More exercise is better – Current guidelines recommend 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly or 150 minutes of moderate exercise.  Meeting these goals, rather than once-a-week exercise as mentioned in the study, can further reduce the impact of genetic heart disease.  Always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

Specific nutrition goals are better – A “balanced, healthy diet” is a very broad term.  Limiting saturated fat, increasing consumption of omega-3 fats, limiting caloric, sugary drinks, selecting plant proteins to replace some of the animal-based proteins, consuming six servings of vegetables and four to six servings of fruit daily, consuming whole grains as your primary grain-based carbohydrate sources, and focusing on fat free dairy products ca n also help to improve your heart risk profile.

Avoiding weight cycling – Maintaining a healthy weight can be very difficult, especially if you have a predisposition for obesity or have lost significant amounts of weight.  Weight cycling can put a burden on your heart muscle, as your weight goes up and down.  Pick a healthy goal weight that can be maintained to help limit genetic cardiac risk.

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