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Is heart disease genetic?

It's important to remember that a family history of heart disease is just one of many cardiac risk factors. Find more facts about heart diseases here and you will learn whether heart disease is genetic or environmental.

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Find out whether you can inherit heart disease and steps you can take now to protect your heart.

Dou you think that heart disease risk is mostly genetic? You're not alone. A clinic survey found that many people believe that there's a gene that causes heart disease and that individuals who have this gene are more likely to get the disease.

READ ALSO: How does cooking oil type affect our heart health?

Is heart disease genetic?

While your family history does matter, no “heart disease gene” exists, says the research. And even if you do have heart disease in your family, don't throw up your hands and accept it as your fate. There’s a lot you can do to lower your risk. No connections with a family history.

Genes are important, but what we do to protect ourselves plays a huge role in preventing heart disease. Your genes are the hand you were dealt, but how you play your cards can determine whether you’re going to be a winner or a loser.

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Is heart disease hereditary?

The heart is a muscle that pumps blood to all parts of your body, and it’s at work every second of your life. It pumps blood through a network of arteries, veins, and capillaries. When fatty deposits (plaque) build up on the interior walls of your arteries, they restrict the blood supply to the heart, setting the stage for a heart attack.

Other conditions that affect blood flow from the heart to the body include irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) and heart valve issues. Also, some people are born with a heart defect known as congenital heart disease.

While heart disease symptoms may go undetected for some time, there is some good news.We have many methods to prevent and treat these problems.

Heart disease genetic risks

Lifestyle choices can have an enormous impact on your heart health. Even people with a family history of heart attacks can reduce their overall risk with healthy habits.

Your first step is being aware of your cardiovascular disease risk factors. Other than a family history of heart disease, these include as follows.

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High blood pressure.

Normal resting blood pressure for most adults is below 120/80, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). High blood pressure can increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. It can cause the muscles lining your artery walls to thicken, in turn narrowing the path of your blood flow. Blockages to the heart can lead to heart attacks, and blockages to the brain can lead to strokes.

High cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance carried through the blood. Too much LDL cholesterol — the bad kind — can cause plaque to build up in your arteries, increasing your risk of a heart attack.

Diabetes. At least 65 percent of people with diabetes die from some form of heart disease or stroke, according to the AHA. Many individuals with type 2 diabetes, in particular, are obese and have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and poorly controlled blood sugar — all of which are risk factors for heart disease.

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Smoking.

The chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

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Being overweight.

Carrying excess weight, especially around the middle, strains your heart, raises your blood pressure and LDL cholesterol and lowers your HDL (good) cholesterol. This increases your risk for heart disease as well as diabetes.

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How to Prevent Heart Disease

When it comes to heart disease prevention, there’s a lot you can do. To lower your risk for heart disease, make these healthy changes to your lifestyle.

Know your numbers.

High blood pressure is called “the silent killer” because it sometimes has no symptoms. Many people don't even know they have it, Greenfield says. To stay safe, it’s important to get checked regularly. “These days you can walk into a pharmacy or grocery store, and it’s likely to have a unit to check your blood pressure,” Greenfield says. Know your cholesterol level, too, especially if you have a family history of high cholesterol, he says. It's measured by a simple blood test administered at your doctor’s office.

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Eat a heart-healthy diet.

You can lower your cholesterol by consuming less saturated fat (such as whole dairy and butter), fewer processed meats (such as sausage and bologna), and fewer high-sodium foods. Heart-healthy meals may include fish, fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.

Get regular exercise.

Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise on most days of the week. “That could mean walking at an average pace or going dancing,” Goldberg says. If you don’t have that big a block of time, work exercise into your day in chunks — take the stairs rather than the elevator and always park as far as you can from the entrance of your destination.

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Quit smoking.

Smoking dramatically increases your chances of developing cardiovascular disease, Schussler says. Visit SmokeFree.gov for helpful resources on becoming — and staying — a nonsmoker.

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Control your diabetes.

If you have diabetes, it’s essential to make healthy food choices, get to or maintain a healthy weight, be active every day, and stay on track with taking your medications. If you’re having difficulty with any aspect of your diabetes management, work with your doctor to make sure your condition is under control.

The best advice for protecting your heart can be summed up in five words. Eat healthier and move more. Those words can go a long way to protecting you from heart disease — and many other conditions.

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