Genetic Heart Disease Risk Eased by Healthy Habits

decrease risk of heart diseaseA heart-healthy lifestyle can cut your genetic risk for heart disease in half.

This is the conclusion of a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The investigators looked at data from 55,000 participants who were at high risk for heart disease due to genetic factors. A genetic predisposition to heart disease can double your risk of heart disease, the study found, but a heart-healthy lifestyle can cut that risk in half. They also found that an unhealthy lifestyle can cancel the benefits of good genetics.

The researchers examined data from four separate studies in distinct populations of people aged 45 to 80 years and achieved the same results. The investigators created metrics for genetic risk based on fifty genes known to be associated with the development of heart disease.

A lifestyle score was developed based on four pillars of a heart-healthy lifestyle:

  1. A healthy diet including increased fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fish, and limited intake of saturated fats, refined sugars, and salt.
  2. Regular exercise at least once per week
  3. No smoking
  4. No obesity, as defined by body mass index

Participants who reported three of these four pillars were considered to have an overall healthy lifestyle. People with an overall healthy lifestyle were able to decrease their risk of heart disease by about half.

This study realizes that both genetic factors and lifestyle choices contribute to the development of heart disease. Nevertheless, the study demonstrates your risk of heart disease can be lowered through lifestyle changes that only you have the power to change.

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