Healthy lifestyle wards off heart disease in people with genetic risk




People with a predisposed genetic risk for heart disease can lower the incidence by up to one-half if they maintain a healthy lifestyle, according to a new analysis of data recently published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

“DNA is not destiny; it is not deterministic for this disease,” said Sekar Kathiresan, MD, director of the Center for Human Genetic Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, in a Nov. 13 article published by the New York Times.

Kathiresan and colleagues analyzed data of more than 55,000 people to make their conclusions.

According to the study’s authors, genetic and lifestyle factors are key drivers of coronary artery disease, but a healthy lifestyle can reduce rates of cardiovascular events.

“Across four studies involving 55,685 participants, genetic and lifestyle factors were independently associated with susceptibility to coronary artery disease,” according to the article. “Among participants at high genetic risk, a favorable lifestyle was associated with a nearly 50% lower relative risk of coronary artery disease than was an unfavorable lifestyle.”

A healthy lifestyle as defined in the study is not smoking, avoiding obesity, getting regular physical activity and eating a healthy diet of mostly fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains, fish and dairy products and little processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages and trans fats.

“Our results support public health efforts that emphasize a healthy lifestyle for everyone,” the authors wrote in the study.

About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the U.S. every year, which is one in every four deaths, according to the CDC. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, according to the CDC.

Michael Lauer, MD, a cardiologist and deputy director for extramural research at the National Institutes of Health who did not help with the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, told the New York Times the type of research done by Kathiresan and his colleagues “is not something we see very often, and certainly not with this degree of rigor.”

The study was supported by a grant from the American College of Cardiology – Merck Research Fellowship, a John S. Ladue Memorial Fellowship from Harvard Medical School, and a KL2/Catalyst Medical Research Investigator Training award from Harvard Catalyst funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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About the author
Sallie Jimenez

Sallie Jimenez 

Senior Nursing Editor Sallie Jimenez develops and edits content for OnCourse Learning’s Nurse.com blog, which covers industry news and trends in the nursing profession and healthcare. She has more than 22 years of healthcare journalism, content marketing and editing experience.

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