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Healthy lifestyle trumps genetic health problems

Healthy lifestyle trumps genetic health problems

Following a healthy lifestyle can reduce the chances of those who are genetically at risk of suffering heart disease by 50 per cent, new research has found.

Although one in five people has genes that increase the likelihood of having a heart attack, experts at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital believe these individuals can alter their fate and avoid health problems.

Researchers looked at data from over 55,000 people involved in four big datasets monitoring various groups of U.S. citizens for at least 20 years. Participants were given a genetic risk score, worked out by whether they had any of the 50 variants that boosted the chances of a heart attack. People who came up in the highest fifth of scores were found to be almost twice as likely than individuals in the lower fifth to suffer a coronary problem.

But the way people led their lives made a huge difference, as those who were at more risk but didn’t smoke, ate well and exercised regularly saw their chances of danger drop by 46 per cent, aligning them with those who didn’t have the genes that elevated the risk.

Lead author Dr Sekar Kathiresan, who presented findings at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions on Sunday (13Nov16), explained: “The basic message of our study is that DNA is not destiny.

“Many individuals - both physicians and members of the general public - have looked on genetic risk as unavoidable, but for heart attack that does not appear to be the case.

“Some people may feel they cannot escape a genetically determined risk for heart attack, but our findings indicate that following a healthy lifestyle can powerfully reduce genetic risk.”

Experts in Britain are currently trying to formulate a blood test that identifies those at risk with the hope that people will be persuaded to change their lifestyles and prevent any problems.

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