Healthy living could offset genetics and add 20 years free of heart disease

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

In a new study from the University of Texas, researchers found people who follow seven rules for healthy living – such as staying physically active and eating a healthy diet – could offset a high genetic risk for heart disease.

They found people with high cumulative genetic risk scores for heart disease could dramatically lower that risk if they adhered to seven lifestyle modifications, called Life’s Simple 7.

In addition to eating a heart-healthy diet and moving more, this includes not smoking, maintaining an appropriate weight, and keeping blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure levels under control.

The team suggests it could mean as many as 20 extra years of life free of heart disease.

This was the first study to use the tool to predict lifetime risk for heart disease and the number of years adults might live free of it if they adhered to a set of healthy lifestyle guidelines.

Polygenic risk scores are a relatively new tool that includes all of a person’s genetic information rather than individual genes associated with a disease.

The scoring is based on the total number of variants that increase heart disease risk found in a person’s genetic code.

In the study, the team examined heart disease risk for 8,372 white adults and 2,314 Black adults age 45 and older.

Overall, it found the risk for developing heart disease during a person’s remaining lifetime ranged from 16.6% for those who practiced the healthiest lifestyles to 43.1% for those with the least healthy lifestyles.

People with high polygenic risk scores could lower their risk for heart disease by up to 50% by also scoring high on following the healthy lifestyle recommendations.

The team says polygenic risk scores may be most useful when used to identify people under the age of 40 who carry a high genetic risk for heart disease and don’t know it.

Decisions about whether someone should take medications such as statins to reduce heart disease risk currently are based upon whether they are likely to develop heart disease within 10 years, which is not typically the case for someone in their 30s but might be for someone with high genetic risk.

The main message of this study is that while family history or genetics are important, they don’t determine your fate.

If you are at high risk, you can lower it by pursuing a healthy lifestyle. Likewise, if you are at lower risk, you can worsen your situation by not controlling your behaviors.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about how to reverse heart failure with diet, and what you need to know about fitness for healthy heart.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies that healthy thyroid can be key to a healthy heart, and results showing what heart and stroke patients need to know about COVID-19 in 2022.

The study is published in Circulation and was conducted by Natalie Hasbani et al.

Copyright © 2022 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.