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Is heart disease genetic?

Heart disease can run in the family. Genetic factors likely play some role in high blood pressure, heart disease and other vascular conditions. However, it is also likely that people with a family history of heart disease share common environments and risk factors that increase their risk. The risk for heart disease can increase even more when heredity is combined with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking cigarettes and eating a poor diet.

Carolyn  Thomas
Healthcare Specialist

It's important to remember that a family history of heart disease is just one of many cardiac risk factors. Recently, a woman in one of my heart health presentation audiences told the group that she "felt like a ticking time bomb" because of her "high risk" for having a heart attack one day. She believed this because her own mother had experienced a heart attack at age 50. But she added that her mother also weighed over 300 pounds, was inactive, a chain-smoker and a non-compliant diabetic.

Would her mother have developed heart disease had these serious risk factors been addressed earlier in life? Nobody can predict for sure, but in this case, it seems that family history was not a death sentence, but more of a wake-up call for this woman to start immediately upon a journey of heart-healthy lifestyle improvements of her own: maintaining a healthy weight, daily exercise, managing stress and eating heart-smart food.

The tendency toward certain heart disease risk factors may be inherited. The presence of an immediate female family member (mother or sister) with coronary heart disease before age 65, or male relative (father or brother) diagnosed before age 55, will significantly increase your risk of heart disease. You should know your family's history and be sure to provide that information to your doctor.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.