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Beat genetic heart attack risk with a healthy lifestyle

Harold Mandel's picture
Leading a healthy lifestyle

Researchers have found adhering to a healthy lifestyle can significantly lower genetic heart attack risk.


Genetic factors can play a significant role in the risk for a heart attack. Fortunately it appears genetic risk for heart attack can be modified with a healthy lifestyle.

Genetic heart attack risk can be greatly lowered by leading a healthy lifestyle

Massachusetts General Hospital reported researchers have found genetic heart attack risk can be greatly lowered by leading a healthy lifestyle. Incidence of a heart attack can be decreased by 50 percent even in people who are genetically at the greatest risk.

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Healthy lifestyle factors which have been shown to decrease heart disease risk include getting regular exercise, avoiding too much weight and not smoking. Massachusetts General Hospital investigators have discovered even in those who are at high genetic risk, adhering to a healthy lifestyle can dramatically lower the probability of a heart attack.

"DNA is not destiny"

Sekar Kathiresan, MD, who is director of the Center for Human Genetic Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, says the basic message which this study gives is that "DNA is not destiny." Many people, including physicians, have viewed genetic risk as simply being unavoidable. However, that does not seem to be the case for heart attack.

In three prospective studies the researchers observed that with a higher genetic risk score there was notably higher incidence of coronary events. Known coronary risk factors such as a family history and high LDL cholesterol were also observed to be associated with a high genetic risk score. Although genetic risk was the most significant contributor to cardiac risk, with each healthy lifestyle factor there was decreased risk.

This study has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It has been determined that genetic and lifestyle factors together contribute to the risk of coronary artery disease. Among participants in this study who were at high genetic risk for heart disease a healthy lifestyle was associated with a much lower risk of coronary artery disease than was seen in participants with an unfavorable lifestyle. It is encouraging that leading a healthy lifestyle may help you beat genetic risk for heart disease.