One-size-fits-all is no fit for heart health

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From Weight Watchers to wearable tech, there are messages encouraging people to stay fit and healthy.

But in a new study, researchers found when it comes to heart health, a far more personalized approach is needed, and it all starts with genes.

The research was conducted by a team from the University of South Australia and elsewhere.

In the study, the team assessed the impact of lifestyle factors on heart disease, finding clear links between genetic predisposition of heart disease and smoking, alcohol intake, physical activity, and diet.

They say the popular “one-size-fits-all” approach to heart health does not have uniform effects, and that a tailored, individualized approach to heart disease is essential.

Globally, heart disease is the number one cause of death, claiming an estimated 17.9 million lives a year.

Most deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes, with a third of these occurring prematurely in people under 70 years of age. In Australia, heart disease kills one Australian every four minutes.

The team says between 20% to 60% of risk factors for heart disease are attributed to genetics which is far better addressed through personalized and individual interventions than broad-stroke lifestyle adjustments.

For example, genetics show how the level of cholesterol can be controlled by lifestyle modification, given the genotypes and the underlying genetic link between cholesterol and lifestyle factors.

This will help doctors make a decision about which lifestyle intervention is most suitable for a patient, for example, more exercise might be a better choice than reducing smoking.

However, this does not necessarily mean that exercise is uniformly recommended for other people who may have different genes and genetic effects that are more sensitive to smoking exposure.

It’s all about understanding how individual genetic risks can change in line with different lifestyle adjustments, and consequently how cardiovascular health can benefit.

While the team agrees that positive lifestyle changes are good for overall health, including cardiovascular health, they say tailored interventions based on individual differences will be most successful for managing heart disease.

One author of the study is Associate Professor Hong Lee.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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