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Heart Disease - Is The Problem Due To Genes Or Lifestyle?

Written and reviewed by
MBBS, MD - Medicine, DM - Cardiology
Cardiologist, Gurgaon  •  20years experience
Heart Disease - Is The Problem Due To Genes Or Lifestyle?

Heart disease is a very broad term and includes various heart conditions ranging from muscular, circulatory, to nervous conditions. For an individual to develop any heart disease, there are two definite sets of risk factors – the fixed ones and the variables. The fixed ones are those that cannot be majorly modified and include genes and advancing age. The variable ones are the lifestyle changes and include factors like stress levels, smoking, food habits, physical activity, etc.

There is a debate ongoing whether heart disease is genetic or a lifestyle condition. To sum up,

  1. Heart disease definitely has a genetic component to it.
  2. It can be seen in people who do not have a genetic predisposition but have a lifestyle that can trigger any type of heart disease.
  3. There are instances where even though there was a family history of heart disease, changes in lifestyle prolonged its onset and also reduced the severity of some symptoms.
  4. In patients where the heart disease has already onset, the prognosis and also the symptom management can be vastly improved. This, in turn, ensures reduced morbidity and mortality.

On one hand, in countries like USA, mortality and morbidity rates are declining due to heart diseases. On the other hand, there are developing countries where the incidence of heart disease is on the rise. The ability to predict family history and genetic correlation is not well established in these geographies, as heart disease as a condition does not date back to more than a couple of generations. Therefore, it is difficult to establish a strong family history and so it is more likely it is due to the new, altered lifestyle. It is highly likely that the heart disease did indeed run in families but it was never documented as an illness or a cause of death.

Lifestyle changes which affect the genetic makeup for heart disease:

  1. Poor eating habits which include loads of processed foods, non-nutritious foods, high levels of sugar and fats. Changing this to a diet rich in nutrition and antioxidants can help in controlling heart disease risk.
  2. Weight management: A sedentary lifestyle is a very big risk and managing weight is essential to reducing heart disease risk. An active lifestyle is definitely known to reduce the risk of heart disease.
  3. Smoking is known to be a big risk for not just heart disease but multiple other health conditions, cutting down smoking can prolong the onset of heart disease.
  4. Stress is the new risk factor for all disease conditions, this definitely helps curtail the risk for heart disease, even if there is a strong family history.

So, while there is definitely a genetic connection, lifestyle changes can help in managing heart disease.

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