Genetics and Heart Disease

On health questionnaires and appointment intake forms, doctors always ask about family history. Family history gives clues to genetically linked diseases the patient may eventually inherit. If a patient has a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with a condition, it often puts them at a higher risk for similar conditions. This genetic link alerts doctors to the need to screen or test for early detection of problems. Family history can also provide clues on what conditions may be causing a patient’s symptoms.

Heart conditions often have a genetic link. Cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, and high cholesterol are all impacted by genetics. In some cases, cardiomyopathy can be inherited directly from a parent, even if only one set of the genetic marker is passed on. 

While genetic risk often seems unavoidable, there are steps you can take to lessen the consequences of being high risk for a specific condition. Even with a higher risk due to genetics, the actions an individual takes can influence their outcome.

Here are some things to consider related to genetics and heart disease.

Know your family history

The first step in mitigating risk from your family history is knowing the risk exists. By knowing what heart conditions have affected family members, you can share this knowledge with healthcare providers. 

If you have a family history of heart disease, try not to dwell on potentials and “what if” questions. An increased risk is not a guarantee that you will develop the same or similar conditions. Even so, keep a list of affected family members somewhere readily accessible, like your phone. Doctors will use the information to ensure adequate care and preventative measures.

Get established with a cardiologist

If you have a strong family history of heart disease, be proactive with your heart health. Get established with a cardiologist early, before heart disease has caused symptoms or progressed. Early detection can often mean less invasive or more effective treatment options. Also, a cardiologist can help you determine other steps to take to prevent heart disease.

Focus on prevention

You can’t change your genetic risk, but you can change your daily habits. The behaviors and habits of a patient can have a large impact on heart health right alongside genetics. Sometimes family dynamics and learned unhealthy behaviors can be challenging to change, but it’s worth evaluating your lifestyle and adding in healthy habits

Daily exercise and eating a healthy diet top the list of heart healthy behaviors. By adding in moderate amounts of movement to your normal activities, you can improve heart health and sometimes prevent disease. Focus on adding fruits, vegetables, and quality carbohydrates to your meal plans every day. 

Beyond diet and exercise, stay on top of regular health checkups. Regular doctor visits allow for screenings and blood work that might indicate problems as they develop. When a patient is at high risk for heart disease, regularly checkups are especially helpful for future health. 

Research continually improves our understanding of genetics and heart disease. It is clear that heart disease often runs in families, and having a relative with heart issues increases an individual’s risk of developing similar conditions. However, early detection and heart healthy habits can help reduce that risk. 

If you have questions about your genetic risk for heart disease, reach out to the doctors at OHH to schedule an appointment today.