The Facts to Know About Genetics & Heart Disease

Published: Tuesday, April 5, 2022

You’ve probably heard about heart disease and other medical conditions “running in the family.” But if you have a family history of heart problems, will you also have heart health issues?

It’s an interesting question – and the answer isn’t entirely straightforward.

Some forms of heart disease can be inherited, meaning they have a genetic component. In other cases, though, you may not be genetically predisposed to a heart condition, but you may be more likely to develop it based on factors you share with your family.

Let our team of experts at the Georgia Heart Institute walk you through the topic:

Can Heart Disease Be Genetically Inherited?

Some forms of heart disease can be passed through the genes. These “familial heart diseases” include conditions such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (which causes a thickening of the heart muscle), dilated cardiomyopathy (which causes a thinning of the heart muscle), Marfan syndrome (which damages the connective tissue in the heart), and bicuspid aortic valve disease (where the heart valve has two flaps instead of three).

If you have a familial (also called genetic or inherited) form of heart disease, it is passed through a parent’s genes. If you have family members with these conditions, your medical provider may recommend you undergo genetic testing, which can identify whether you have the genetic mutation related to that disease.

Will I Get Heart Disease If My Mom or Dad Has It?

That depends. If your mom or dad has a familial heart disease, like the ones mentioned above, you may have inherited it.

Along with inheriting specific genetic mutations that can cause certain forms of heart disease, it’s also possible to inherit specific risk factors for heart disease.

For example, you can inherit familial hypercholesterolemia, which is more commonly known as high cholesterol. Those who have the genetic form of high cholesterol typically have a low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol reading of 190 or higher, while normal LDL is 110 or lower.

Can You Prevent Genetic Heart Disease?

When it comes to familial heart diseases, you can’t prevent them. You either inherit them in your genes, or you don’t. Same goes for familial risk factors, like high cholesterol.

But if there are no inherited conditions, you can take steps to prevent heart disease from running in the family. How so? Well, in many cases, multiple members of a family will end up developing a health condition not because they’re genetically predisposed to it, but because they have the same lifestyle factors.

Those factors can be changed. Even if your family has traditionally eaten a diet that’s heavy on fried foods or includes many smokers, you don’t have to take up those habits.

Take steps to limit your risk of heart disease—and stop the family trend—by:

  • Eating a heart-healthy diet, including lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, and fatty fish
  • Finding healthy ways to relieve stress
  • Getting plenty of quality sleep each night
  • Having regular screenings to keep an eye on your heart health numbers
  • Limiting the amount of sodium and unhealthy fats in the food you eat
  • Moving your body more often
  • Not smoking

You can’t change your genes, but you can change your habits.

Georgia Heart Institute – Center for Cardiovascular Prevention, Metabolism and Lipids

As the leading heart and vascular program that’s focused on heart health for generations, Georgia Heart Institute has created an innovative center focused solely on patient education, healthy lifestyle behaviors, advanced screening services and support resources – spanning all types and levels of heart disease.

The Center for Cardiovascular Prevention, Metabolism and Lipids brings together expertise from non-invasive cardiology, culinary medicine, wellness coaching, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and more to deliver a holistic and comprehensive experience. This highly-trained team of preventative experts helps patients better understand their heart health, while also providing the expert guidance, advanced diagnostic testing and ongoing care needed to achieve and maintain long-term cardiac wellness.