Habits can overcome genetics in heart disease, new study says

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — This past week, the American Heart Association held its annual scientific sessions. During the meeting, several important research studies were presented.

One study in particular gives all of us who have family members with heart disease a bit more hope. A new study found that even if you have bad genes — a family history of heart problems — you may be able to overcome this risk by adopting heart healthy habits.

1. What are the risk factors for heart disease?

ANSWER: Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans today. Nearly 500,000 people die from sudden cardiac death annually. The risk factors for heart disease can be divided into two groups: those that you can control and those that you cannot control (such as your gender and family history).

Risk factors:
–Male gender
–Family history of heart disease
–High blood pressure
–High cholesterol

2. What did this new study show us?

ANSWER: In the study, researchers looked at data from more than 55,000 people They found that genetics can double the risk for heart disease, but that living a heart healthy lifestyle can cut that increased risk in half. This is great news for people with a family history of heart disease. By exercising, eating right and avoiding smoking, we can actually counteract the negative effects of our DNA.

3. What advice do you have for our viewers if they want to avoid heart disease?

ANSWER: For me, this study provides hope. It allows me to tell my patients that even though they may have a long family history of heart problems that they actually have a chance to avoid getting heart disease. The most important thing we can do is to not smoke and maintain a healthy body weight.

In addition, we can significantly impact and overcome our risk factors if we do the things that make us healthy — exercising 150 minutes a week, eating a heart healthy lifestyle and avoiding smoking.

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