Cochin Cardiac Club

Health Blog by Dr.Uday Nair



Heart disease, like so many other diseases, is known to run in families. A link between your genes and heart disease may predispose you to heart disease and also put you at a higher risk for heart attacks.

Genetic heart disease refers to diseases or conditions that manifest in adulthood that are related to family links or family history

A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, occurs when a blockage to the coronary artery interrupts the blood supply to the heart. A significant number of heart attacks are related to heart disease. However, unlike other diseases that run in families, such as sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis, there is not one single gene or one single cause of heart attacks or heart disease.


The Genetic Link

Individuals can become more prone to develop heart disease based on their family history. There are two ways that genetics are a factor. One way is the passing on of genes at birth that cause heart disease, or conditions that increase the risk of heart disease. The other way is through the family environment where one is raised


Genetic Factors

  • Children of diabetic parents are likely to become diabetics themselves. Children of overweight parents are likely to be overweight.
  • Children of parents with high cholesterol are likely to have high cholesterol as adults. All of these conditions that cause heart disease in adulthood can be affected by the passing on of specific genes or the passing on of poor eating habits. For instance, an individual who is overweight due to eating improperly is more prone to be diabetic, have high cholesterol, and develop heart disease.
  • However, there are some factors for heart disease that are strictly related to the environment one is raised in. For example, if parents were poor exercisers, their children will likely not exercise enough. Children of smokers are likely to smoke. Even if they decide not to smoke, years of exposure to second hand smoke can make children more at risk for heart disease as an adult.


Risk Factors for Genetics and Heart Disease

In India,America and  many  countries, heart disease is the leading cause of death. There are many factors that can contribute to both heart disease and heart attacks, including family history. Diet and other lifestyle factors (such as smoking) are also significant factors that affect the development of heart disease.

If you are genetically predisposed to heart disease, your doctor may help you develop an exercise plan, refer you to a nutritionist, or take prescription medication. Doctors concerned about heart disease and heart attacks usually stress eliminating risk early.

Family history increases risk when someone else in the family has suffered from heart disease or passed away due to some type of heart disease.
 Statistics show that men suffer from heart disease as much as ten years earlier than women. If an individual's brother, father, or grandfather has suffered from heart disease before the age of 55, he is twice as likely to develop heart disease. If an individual's sister, mother, or grandmother suffered from heart disease before the age of 65, she is also twice as likely to develop heart disease. In addition, these individuals are also much more prone to having another risk factor that also makes them prone to heart disease.
Lastly, if someone has had a heart attack already, he is much more prone to suffer from a second heart attack in the future.Because a first heart attack can be fatal or seriously debilitating, preventing heart attacks is essential. You may have one or several risk factors for heart disease. Although you can't control some risk factors, such as age, gender, race and family history, many risk factors are controllable, including your:
  • blood cholesterol
  • blood pressure
  • physical activity
  • obesity and body weight.

Genetics for Heart Disease

Genetic researchers are working to develop pharmaceutical drugs that combat genes known to cause heart attacks, such as the FLAP gene, the first known gene that carries a large risk for heart attack and stroke. The FLAP gene was discovered by Icelandic genetic researchers who analyzed a large population of heart attack patients and their family members.

Genetics, Heart Disease, and Family History

Your family history can help you determine if you have a propensity to developing heart disease. Your doctor can help identify other factors that may put you at risk, such as cholesterol and blood pressure.
If you have a family history of heart disease, your doctor may opt for a different or medical treatment plan. Your doctor may be particularly interested in the medical history of your closest relatives, such as your siblings and your parents. However, even if your family history predisposes you to heart attacks, a conscious, healthy lifestyle can lessen your risk significantly. Individuals with a family history of heart disease often have a family history of many of its risk factors.


Preventing Controllable Factors

  • If an individual is prone to heart disease due to family history or environment, there are certain steps that one can take to prevent from following in the footsteps of their parents. Many times genetic heart disease is preventable simply by not following the example set forth by a parent. For instance, one can control how much they eat, what they eat, the amount of exercise they do, and whether or not they smoke. Controlling one's diet and other activities prevents the onset of diabetes, high cholesterol and other risk factors of heart disease.

Preventing True Genetic Factors

  • Sometimes, though, individuals simply have high cholesterol and diabetes because of family genes. If this is the case and one's family has a history of heart disease as well, they should take proper precautions. The number one step is to be sure to share family history with a physician. There are medications that can control ailments such as diabetes, to minimize the risk of heart disease caused by these illnesses. High blood pressure, another leading cause of genetic heart disease, can also be controlled with medication.

Preventing Heart Attacks

 A healthy diet is one of the greatest weapons against heart disease.Other suggestions for those committed to maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle, including:
  • aim for a healthy weight
  • be physically active every day
  • limit consumption of alcohol
  • lower high blood pressure
  • manage diabetes
  • reduce blood cholesterol
  • reduce stress in your life
  • stop smoking.

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