Outsmart Bad Heart Genes with Healthy Lifestyle

Posted 01/23/2017 | By HealthCorps

Heart disease, and many other diseases for which we may have a strong genetic predisposition, can be largely controlled with healthy lifestyle choices.  But you do have to commit!!

You may have inherited your mom’s hair color or your dad’s nose. We inherit many traits from our parents and extended gene pool. We also inherit the risk of certain diseases, which is why it is so important to know you family’s health history. But we are not necessarily doomed to experience these same health issues.

The research, out of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, was presented at the annual American Heart Association meeting. The Biolmage study was also published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The analysis collected data from 55,685 patients from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, the Women’s Genome Study, the Malmo Diet and Cancer Study and the Biolmage study itself. It’s important to recognize that genetic testing for coronary artery disease (CAD) is not routinely performed on the general population because it’s just too expensive. Evidence from the Biolage study suggests it may have merit in the future. Still, it is possible to examine one’s family health tree and conclude that one has a high or higher risk of developing heart disease, based on generational observations.

This analysis found that patients with the highest genetic risk had double the cardiac events as did their peers at the lower spectrum of genetic risk. But a healthy lifestyle including not smoking, regular physical activity and a healthy diet, along with other healthy habits, appeared to halve the risk of coronary events in individuals compared to others who only engaged in one or none of these healthy habits.

The Biolmage researchers also suggest that individuals with these higher genetic links to CAD should likely be targeted to undergo even more intensive lifestyle modification in order to keep the genetic influences at bay, though research on outcomes with this approach is not yet available. What is clear is that patients need to be counseled on the fact that strong genetic history for CAD coupled with poor lifestyle is a very dangerous combination.

Limitations to this study included the fact that it was not a randomized study and it simply pooled data to draw conclusions. There was also no effort to identify or track behavioral changes or illnesses that may have raised the risk of cardiac events in the data pool.

Still, parents can easily assess the family’s risk of certain diseases like heart disease and implement family lifestyle practices that include diet, exercise, minimizing stress, emphasizing better sleep habits in order to offset genetic risk for disease. This model would also be applicable to diabetes and cancer risks.

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