Lifestyle changes can prevent heart disease, even in those with a family history

key takeaways

  • Even people with a high genetic risk for heart disease can make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of heart disease, a new study finds.
  • The researchers found that lifestyle changes can greatly reduce the risk.
  • The American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 guidelines can help.

Having genetic risk factors for heart disease doesn’t mean you’re doomed to develop the disease. New research finds that following the American Heart Association (AHA) heart health guidelines can help reduce your risk.

The study was published in the journal cycleanalyzed data from more than 10,000 participants aged 45 years and older without coronary heart disease.

The researchers looked at differences in each participant’s lifetime risk of coronary heart disease and their adherence to AHA Life’s Simple 7 guidelines.

Participants with a high genetic risk had a lifetime risk of heart disease of about 40 percent, compared with 20 percent for those with a low genetic risk, the researchers said.

The study found that participants who were at high risk for heart disease but did not strictly adhere to AHA guidelines had a 67 percent increased risk. Those who followed the guidelines were able to reduce the risk to 24%.

“Ideal adherence to Life’s Simple 7 recommendations is associated with a reduced lifetime risk of coronary heart disease in all individuals, especially in those with a high genetic predisposition,” the researchers concluded.

What are AHA Life’s Simple 7 Principles?

Life’s Simple 7 is the top seven heart disease risk factors that people can improve with lifestyle changes. They include:

  • smoking status. Smokers have a much higher risk of heart disease than non-smokers.
  • physical activity. People should aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week.
  • weight. The AHA recommends keeping track of how many calories you eat versus how many calories you burn.
  • diet. The American Heart Association recommends eating 2.5 cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit each day, along with six servings of grains (at least half should be whole grains), two servings of lean protein, and three tablespoons of healthy oils.
  • blood sugar. If you have a medical condition like diabetes, learn about your blood sugar levels and how to manage them.
  • cholesterol. Know your cholesterol levels and minimize sources of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your diet.
  • blood pressure. The AHA recommends targeting a blood pressure of less than 120 by age 80.

Lifestyle factors critical to heart health

Natalie Hasbani, MPH, lead author of the study and a research associate and doctoral student at the University of Texas School of Public Health at Dallas, told VigorTip that she decided to study the extent to which lifestyle factors affect heart health to help put It is translated to people with high genetic risk factors.

“We’re in an area of ​​research where genetic information is becoming more widely available,” she said. “If I’m high risk, what does that mean to me?”

Hasbani said her work shows that “environment and lifestyle play an important role in heart disease,” even for those with high genetic risk factors.

“It’s never too late to start making lifestyle changes in terms of physical activity, smoking and diet,” she said. “Talk to your doctor and try to make an informed decision based on your risk.”

Genetic predictors don’t necessarily determine a person’s heart health outcomes, said Julius Gardin, MD, interim director of the Division of Cardiology at Rutgers Medical School of New Jersey.

“The data clearly shows that even if you’re less careful in the first 20 to 40 years of your life and you’re at high risk, you still have hope of feeling better, living longer and avoiding cardiovascular events if you have Make healthy changes,” he said.

what does this mean to you

Even if you have a family history of heart disease, you can reduce your risk of heart disease by making certain lifestyle changes. Talk to your doctor about your personal risk and the adjustments you can make to keep your heart as healthy as possible.