Cardiovascular disease is a killer we know well. For several years now, it has sombrely occupied the top spot as men’s primary cause of death despite the strides taken in modern medicine and the awareness that has been spread regarding the benefits of keeping your heart healthy. However, whilst lifestyle change remain the easiest – and at times the hardest — to rectify, doctors and scientists are looking to understand the part that genetics plays in heart disease.
There are a multitude of men who have passed away as a result of heart disease who were considered in sound physical shape, who were active sport players or enjoyed staying fit – victims more so of bad genetics than anything else. So is there anything you can do about preventing heart disease, even if you’re predisposed to developing it genetically?
As Dr. Pradeep Natarajan, a cardiologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital explains, your genes may well hold major indications at to your probability of suffering from some form of heart disease.
“Your family medical history is a key, but complex, risk factor for heart disease. For example, if family members have diabetes or high cholesterol, then you may be prone to these risk factors as well.”
That being said, it doesn’t mean that you should be discouraged if it is found that cardiovascular disease runs in the family. It has been shown that as we get older, genetic conditions that haven’t developed are less likely to come through, therefore making living a healthy lifestyle even more important. This means you could essentially “outgrow” your risk of developing the disease, but it doesn’t totally negate it.
Environmental factors do also play a part, as Dr. Natarajan points out. Living in areas with high pollution, poor weather conditions or exposed to increased stress could drastically affect your chances of heart disease taking hold. There are of course risk calculators, like those found on Harvard’s website , which can help predict your chances of suffering from a heart attack in the next decade.
Other tests, which can be carried out through a lab or with your doctor, can help flag down potential markers such as high blood pressure or hormonal imbalances that could play a part in your cardiovascular health. From there, prescription medicine or other activities could be suggested to help reduce the risk. At the end of the day, genetic markers aren’t necessarily a death sentence; they can help you curb your chances of developing cardiovascular disease. If you have a family history of it, please consult your doctor – they will be able to help you determine what you need to do to reduce your risk.