Do your genes place you at a greater risk for cardiovascular disease?

According to the Office for National Statistics figures in July 2022, coronary heart disease is the second leading cause of death in England. In spite of the leaps and bounds made in treatments for heart disease— aspirin, cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins, even medical technology such as pacemakers— cardiovascular disease is winning the war, claiming a higher proportion of British lives lost every year. In part, this deadly trend is due to inherited heart diseases. In truth, we are all at risk one way or another. Our genes are one piece of a larger puzzle, which includes many external factors.

What is Cardiovascular Genomics?

Genomics is the study of the entire genome, as opposed to focus on a single gene. Cardiovascular genomics is the study of how genes interact in order to make heart-related diseases possible. The development of cardiovascular disease is a matter of both nature (a patient’s genetic predisposition towards inherited cardiac disease and vulnerability to acquired conditions), and nurture (factors such as diet, exercise, exposure to damaging elements).

To draw out the example given of diet being a significant influence: each food or nutrient you consume can have a positive or negative effect on you, based on your personal genomics. Our health can improve or worsen, depending on our diets.

Diet and inflammation

Eating fast foods and having a ‘Western-type’ diet, characterised by high intakes of meat, fat and sugar, are linked to excess weight gain, overweight and obesity. This type of diet contains many foods which themselves contribute to inflammation within the body. Inflammation is responsible for activating genes that are potentially detrimental to your health. However, if you have your genes tested for cardiovascular disease, you can discover what diet you should be following in order to reduce your chance of activating these hazardous genes.

If we look at the Mediterranean diet, it uses an abundance of olive oil. A study has found that when patients added just four tablespoons of olive oil to their diets, they dramatically reduced their risk factors for both heart disease and strokes. With cardiovascular genomics, you may learn that you are a good candidate the Mediterranean diet, or perhaps a different diet that suits your genes more effectively.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.