Everlywell at-home Heart Health Test to check for heart disease risk factors

Is heart disease genetic?

Medically reviewed on August 1, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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From eye color to height, genes provide essential instructions to your body, determining characteristics transferred from parent to offspring. However, genes can also pass down less desirable traits—like the likelihood of developing certain conditions or diseases.

If you’re concerned about your long-term health or wondering what chronic illnesses you may be more susceptible to, you may ask, “Is heart disease genetic?”

Genetic factors may contribute to the likelihood of developing coronary heart disease, but genetics aren’t the only elements to consider for heart health. [1]

We’ll explore the related genetic health issues, environmental factors, and what you can do to lower your risk factor. Take your health into your hands, and read on to discover more about the relationship between genetics and cardiovascular disease.

What is heart disease?

First, understand that heart disease isn’t a singular illness. It’s a catch-all term for a variety of heart-related health conditions. [2]

Most commonly, heart disease refers to coronary artery disease (CAD). This specific type of heart disease is caused by constriction or blockage of the coronary arteries, inhibiting blood vessels from supplying the heart with crucial oxygen. [3]

Other forms of heart disease may: [2]

  • Affect the heart’s ability to pump blood
  • Cause damage to the internal muscle tissue of the heart
  • Interfere with the function of heart valves

Prioritizing your heart health is crucial for achieving overall, long-term wellness. Not only is heart disease the leading cause of death in the U.S., but the symptoms of heart disease may not be immediately visible. Often, individuals are unaware of the severity of the heart issues until they suffer a major cardiac event, such as: [2]

  • Heart attack – Those suffering from heart attacks frequently report chest pain, nausea, dizziness, and extreme fatigue leading to loss of consciousness. A heart attack can be deadly and could result in permanent damage to your heart.
  • Arrhythmia – Also known as heart palpitations, an arrhythmia is an unsteady, often fluttery feeling in your chest. It's an abnormal heart rhythm and may signify a more serious heart problem.
  • Heart failure – In the early stages of heart failure, symptoms often include shortness of breath and extreme fatigue, making many physical activities impossible. These symptoms are often followed by swelling of the feet, legs, and neck.

Heart disease is a serious issue. But the more you understand about this prevalent ailment, the better chance you have of mitigating your risks and protecting yourself from danger.

What are the genetic risk factors for heart disease?

Hereditary traits are genes that are passed on from one generation to the next. [1] That means you could have a genetic predisposition to heart disease. But modern science has yet to pinpoint the exact correlation between genetics and inherited heart disease. Still, it’s widely believed that if heart disease is part of your family health history, you are more likely to develop heart disease yourself.

So, what are the most critical factors for determining your hereditary risk for heart disease? Consider the following elements:

  • Age at time of the incident – If a member of your immediate family (mother, father, brother, or sister) has suffered a heart attack, their age at the time of the incident may be a key piece of data for determining your potential risk. Experiencing a heart attack when under the age of 50 is considered a strong sign of high genetic risk. [1]
  • Heart-related procedures – Medical operations, surgeries, and medications for a heart problem are an essential part of your family medical history. If you have family members who need pacemakers or other heart health devices, you may be at a higher risk of developing heart disease.
  • Cause of death – It may be a troubling topic, but your risk may be elevated if you have family members who have died due to heart disease or related complications.

Heart disease can affect both men and women and people from all racial and ethnic groups. While statistics may vary between groups or geographic regions, the general risks of heart disease can apply to anyone.

How to learn about your genetic risk for heart disease

Discovering information about your family's medical health isn’t always easy. Notably, healthcare providers can’t typically share medical records with anyone besides the patient. That means you may need to do a little work to discover more about your potential genetic risk.

Investigate the following methods for building an accurate family medical history:

  • Family interviews – Create a set of relevant questions to ask your immediate and extended family members. Include both sides of your family, if possible, and keep your questions concise, focusing on their chronic health conditions and any major health events.
  • Medical records – If you’re looking for more information about deceased family members and their medical health, you may be able to request access to their medical records. Death certificates may also be helpful in determining whether a heart condition was the cause of death.
  • Update frequently – Medical histories can change rather quickly. If a family member begins to experience new medical issues, ensure that you make a record of what has changed.

The more you can learn about your family medical history, the more accurate a picture you can develop about your heart disease risk. Share what you discover with your healthcare provider to ensure you receive the very best medical advice and preventative treatment. Additionally, you might consider investigating your heart health through simple at-home heart health testing.

A family history of heart disease isn’t the only genetic factor to consider. In other words, your risk for heart disease can be influenced by other health conditions, some of which may also be genetic. Certain conditions can increase the stress and strain on your heart and contribute to a higher risk of stroke, heart attack, and other serious cardiac events. [1]

If your family has a history of any of the following health conditions, your likelihood of developing heart disease may be increased: [4]

  • High cholesterol – Cholesterol is used by your body for a variety of biological functions, from cell maintenance to hormone production. But elevated levels of cholesterol can be a major contributor to heart disease. Large buildups of cholesterol in your arteries can inhibit oxygen from flowing to your organs, increasing strain on your heart and potentially leading to further complications.
  • Diabetes – Insulin, the hormone used to convert sugar into energy within your body, is an essential part of healthy organ function. Those with diabetes are unable to produce enough insulin on their own. If left untreated, a diabetic person’s sugar levels may build up in the bloodstream, which could have a detrimental effect on heart health.
  • High blood pressure – A vascular disease like hypertension sometimes goes undiagnosed for years. This often-symptomless health issue can cause increased strain on your arteries and organs—including your heart muscle.
  • Obesity – Often determined by your weight and body mass index (BMI), obesity is associated with an increased risk of several detrimental health conditions, including heart disease.

Just like you can’t change your height or the color of your eyes, there’s not much you can do about your family’s health history or the heart-related genes you inherit. That said, you can take action to minimize your risk and remain proactive in the fight against heart disease.

How to lower your overall risk for heart disease

Your risk of developing heart disease isn’t entirely dependent on genetics. Various lifestyle factors could have a major effect on your risk level, and prioritizing your health could help to offset any genetic predispositions.

Additionally, it may be helpful to remember that environmental factors also play a role in your family medical history. [1] It can be difficult to determine what is genetic and what is related to family members sharing a common environment.

If you’re interested in the best ways to lower your risk of heart disease, consider the following lifestyle changes: [4]

  • Eliminate tobacco – It’s widely understood that the chemicals and carcinogens in tobacco can have long-lasting and potentially devastating effects on your heart and lungs. By eliminating tobacco use from your life, you can remove a major contributor to heart disease, increase your quality of life, and you may feel better overall.
  • Increase your physical activity – Heart disease and chronic health issues related to heart disease can all be exacerbated by a lack of exercise. Expanding your daily exercise regimen and prioritizing physical activity may substantially lower your risk of heart disease.
  • Improve your diet – Consuming a varied diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and high-protein foods could be a simple and effective way to reduce your risk of heart disease. Avoid foods high in saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, and cholesterol, as these are the top dietary contributors to poor heart health.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption – The short and long-term health effects of excessive alcohol can directly harm your heart, liver, brain, and overall health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that women have no more than one drink per day and no more than two per day for men.

In addition, if you are dealing with health issues like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, several medications are available to treat these conditions. Talk to your healthcare provider about what medications may be right for you, whether that’s vitamins for heart health or heart health supplements, but remember that medication and supplements may also require lifestyle changes to remain effective.

Prioritize your heart health with Everlywell

Focus on what you can do to lower your risk of heart disease today by staying active and making healthy lifestyle decisions. Our Heart Health Test offers accurate measurements of cholesterol, triglycerides, and HbA1c. As with all our tests, the Heart Health Test is physician-reviewed and HIPAA-compliant to ensure accuracy and privacy.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Family Health History of Heart Disease. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  2. MedlinePlus. Heart Diseases. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About heart disease. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
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