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Healthy lifestyle can help fight inherited heart disease

Having a genetic predisposition to a weak or defective heart does not mean that an individual is likely to suffer from heart disease, provided certain adjustments are made. This is the view of researchers based at the Center for Human Genetic Research at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Based on a review by Dr. Sekar Kathiresan, appropriate measures can be taken. These measures take the form of American Heart Association (AHA) recommendations. These are:

Not smoking;
Reducing obesity (that is having a body mass index of below 30);
Undertaking physical exercise (at least once per week);
Eating a healthy diet.

The research suggests that those who adopt these recommendations can reduce the probability of a heart attack by 50 percent. Moreover, the recommendations, adopted by a person with an inherited heart condition, can be improve chances further.

Interviewed by Laboratory Roots, Dr. Kathiresan explains: “Many individuals … have looked on genetic risk as unavoidable, but for heart attack that does not appear to be the case.”

With her research, Dr. Kathiresan analyzed clinical data from some 55,000 participants. This was cross-matched against genetic profile, in which 50 different genetic variants that are associated with heart defects were identified. The data was drawn from various studies, some of which tracked the participants for two decades.

The profiles for the participants were considered against their adherence (or otherwise) to the lifestyle factors. It was found that a higher genetic risk score increased the risk of adverse cardiac events. However, if the healthy lifestyle factors were adopted this reduced the risk.

The research is published in the New England Journal of Medicine, under the title “Genetic Risk, Adherence to a Healthy Lifestyle, and Coronary Disease.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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