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A healthy lifestyle can help overcome a family history of heart disease: study

Photo: MicroStockHub/iStockphoto

Houston — Adopting the credo “20 for seven” this February – which is American Heart Month – and beyond may boost your heart health 24/7 for two extra decades, regardless of your genetic predisposition to cardiovascular disease.

That’s the conclusion of a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. They found that people who followed the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 guidelines lived free of coronary heart disease for at least 20 additional years compared with those who didn’t closely adhere to the principles for healthy living.

The researchers analyzed heart disease risk data for nearly 11,000 adults (78.3% white and 21.7% Black) older than 45 without coronary heart disease. The researchers assessed their remaining lifetime risk of coronary heart disease and years lived free of such disease based on genetic risk and compliance with the AHA’s Simple 7 recommendations:

  1. Eat better
  2. Increase physical activity
  3. Manage blood pressure
  4. Control cholesterol
  5. Reduce blood sugar
  6. Lose weight
  7. Quit smoking

Additional findings show that white participants with high genetic risk and low Simple 7 ratings had an elevated remaining lifetime risk for coronary heart disease of up to 67% when compared with white individuals with intermediate genetic risk and low Simple 7 ratings. That’s in contrast to 24% for white participants with high genetic risk and ideal Simple 7 ratings.

Among Black participants, “experts found similar differences in lifetime risk according to lifestyle, but less pronounced differences according to genetic predisposition,” according to a press release. The researchers are seeking larger sample sizes for participants of African ancestry.


“The bottom line is that regardless of anyone’s genetic susceptibility, it is very important to have a healthy diet and live a healthy lifestyle,” Natalie Hasbani, lead study author and research assistant, said in the release. “There is all of this information out there about what we might develop based on our genetics, but it doesn’t determine your fate. You can lower your risk through lifestyle changes that, unlike your genetics, are under your control.”

The study was published online Jan. 31 in the AHA journal Circulation.

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