Genetic Markers For Heart Disease: Why Genetic Factors May Increase Heart Attack Risk

Heart disease is caused by a variety of factors. The most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can be controlled with medication and lifestyle changes. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity also increase the risk of heart disease. There are also some genetic factors that may predispose individuals towards heart disease.

LDL Cholesterol and Heart Disease

Varying factors associated with cholesterol, including the presence of lipoprotein(a), (a specialized form of LDL), low LDL (levels below 30 mg/dl) and small LDL (smaller particles of LDL that can more easily penetrate arterial walls) are all genetically-influenced factors that can contribute to heart disease. LDL stands for low density lipoprotein and is a protein responsible for transporting substances to cells. It can build up in the walls of blood vessels and eventually block arteries.

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HDL Cholesterol and Heart Disease

Variations in a gene called PON1 may be responsible for either high or low levels of HDL, or “good cholesterol.” HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. High levels of HDL can help protect against heart disease. Genetic factors may predetermine an individual’s levels of PON1 and therefore may be indicative of heart disease risk or conversely, of a more protective level of PON1.

Genes and Heart Disease

Scientists have discovered gene sites that appear to affect the likelihood of heart disease. According to the journal Nature Genetics, nine specific genes are associated with a higher risk of heart disease. While more research is needed regarding how these specific genes influence heart disease, individuals who carry these genetic markers may wish to work closely with their doctors. Speak with a doctor regarding any questions.

Considerations About Traditional Markers for Heart Disease

According to a January 2010 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association entitled “Association Between a Literature-Based Genetic Risk Score and Cardiovascular Events in Women,” traditional methods of determining heart disease risk, including lifestyle and family history, were more accurate at predicting heart disease than genetic markers. Patients with genetic markers should continue to work with their doctors to create a health plan but knowledge of genetic influences is not enough to predict heart disease risk or rule out the possibility of future heart disease.

Heart Disease and Genetic Factors

Scientists have recently discovered nine specific genetic markers that may predispose certain individuals towards a higher risk of heart disease. These factors, in combination with other factors such as family history, lifestyle and body weight, may make it more likely that some individuals will develop heart disease. To find out if you possess these genetic markers, speak with your doctor about testing.