Genetics and hereditary factors are key in determining who will develop CAD.
by Jon Patrick Hyde
Children of parents with heart disease are more likely to develop it themselves. Most people with a strong family history of heart disease have one or more other risk factors. Just as you can't control your age, sex and race, you can't control your family history.

Extensive research is being conducted on the connection between CAD and inherited genetic traits.  It's not hard to believe that certain diseases and conditions are passed from generation to generation - who hasn't at some point or another said, "it runs in my family" when talking about a particular trait or predisposition for a disease or condition.  Recently clear genetic markers for CAD have been identified and upon further study it is estimated that nearly 50% of the world's population carry these genes; it makes sense for CAD and CVD are the leading causes of death world-wide.

The first genetic marker, 9p21, was discovered in 2007 and scientists determined that people possessing this gene were twice as likely to develop CAD.  Since then more than 50 genetic risk variants have been identified for CAD. This is all good and well be what does it mean for you if you know that CAD runs in your family and therefore you are probably at much greater risk yourself?

Certain genetic factors can be compensated for through the miracles of modern pharmacology.  In my case I've always had borderline high cholesterol and my HDL and LDL levels haven't been ideal.  I fell into a trap born of my own desire to remain fit and healthy.  In most CAD patients borderline cholesterol comes with an unhealthy diet and lack of proper exercise.  Doctors know it's easier to write a prescription for someone than expect that they'll drastically modify their lifestyle.  What is true of my own experience is that in some cases genetics are more powerful anyway; I already had the ideal diet and fitness goals in place and still my cholesterol was not where it should be.  Because it was never out of range but just on the edge of where it shouldn't be I was never considered a candidate for medication. 

My doctor actually told me, "If it was anyone but you. In truth you're healthier than many of the people I see that are half your age."  And outwardly I appeared so but my cholesterol was saying otherwise about how my internal health was situated.  I had stenosis in my LAD and yet I went on with my life as I have for decades with little or zero symptoms other than blood tests that showed I had borderline low HDL, borderline high LDL, and borderline high total cholesterol. 

If I had started taking one of the many Statin drugs available on the market (Statins are a class of drug that dramatically reduce cholesterol in your blood) just 10 years ago I could have possibly avoided having a heart attack completely.  Since having my heart attack I've been put on Lipitor 10mg a day and my cholesterol is in the ideal - textbook perfect range now. 

Other genetic factors such as diabetes can also be compensated for.  Diet, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle can help one avoid developing diabetes.  Other factors such as ethnicity, age, and family history can also be greatly minimized through lifestyle choices.  Diet, exercise, and stress management can greatly reduce your exposure to CAD even if you have a strong genetic predisposition. 

The best way to avoid a trap is to know it exists.  If you have cholesterol issues or your parents developed CAD at a young age (under age 60) or if you have a family history of diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, or if you have a history of inflammatory diseases in your family you should know and accept that you are going to be at higher risk for CAD. 

Then you need to put an action plan into place to help you stay on top of your risk factors and make lifestyle choices to help you minimize your exposure. 

Examples of changes you can make to help reduce your risk of CAD include:

  • STOP SMOKING - smoking greatly increases your risk for several deadly diseases such as lung cancer, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and CAD.  Not smoking by either never starting or quitting if you are a smoker will have the greatest positive impact on your overall health. 
  • LOSE WEIGHT - If you are overweight - reducing your weight will reduce your risk for CAD.  Extra unnecessary weight adds enormous strain to your cardiovascular system. 
  • CHANGE YOUR DIET - Soft drinks (high in sugar), caffeinated drinks (increases blood pressure and heart rate), alcohol (increases blood pressure and triglycerides in your blood), fried foods (high in fat and bad cholesterol), fatty foods, sugary foods, foods high in trans-fat and saturated fats (potato chips, cookies), food high in sodium (increases blood pressure) - all of these foods should be avoided because of their high association with CAD, diabetes, and even cancer.  Moderation is key to a successful healthy diet.  And caloric intake is especially important to avoid weight gain - or to help with weight loss. 
  • PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS - There are medications to help manage cholesterol, help you stop smoking, help manage your blood sugar, and manage high blood pressure.  Talk with your doctor about any risk factors you may have and how to best address managing them. 
 
This website is not meant to diagnose or treat any medical condition nor is it meant to substitute or replace care provided by a qualified healthcare professional.  This information is provided for purely educational purposes and all information pertaining to your specific medical issues or concerns should be discussed with your doctor or a qualified healthcare professional.  If you are experiencing a medical emergency please contact the medical emergency services available at your location. 
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