Heart disease is a terrifying medical issue that kills around 697,000 Americans each year. Because of this, preventing heart disease is a top issue for many.
However, the possibility of a genetic condition adds a hurdle to this. If heart disease is genetic, can it truly be managed?
This article will explore the genetic nature of heart disease. It will explain how genetics factor into the development of heart disease and what can be done.
Is Heart Disease Genetic?
The answer ends up being both yes and no. This is because different types of heart disease have different genetic characteristics. Some cause genetic heart disease, while others do not.
Some forms of heart disease are genetic. Like any other genetic condition, they will be passed down from parent to child.
Other forms of heart disease have a genetic component but are not entirely genetic. Someone may have genetic issues that make them predisposed to heart disease. However, they may not end up developing heart disease. This is particularly true if they work toward keeping their heart healthy and eliminating other risk factors that would contribute to developing it.
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Types of Genetic Heart Disease
There are many types of genetic issues relating to heart disease. However, these are a few of the most common.
Familial Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
This is a genetic heart condition that typically occurs when one parent also has the issue. It directly affects the heart by thickening part of the heart and can even thicken the entire muscle. This causes issues with how the heart works and can lead to death.
The main issue caused by this condition is that the wall separating the left and right ventricles thickens. When this happens, it is harder to get the blood flowing, and thus, the heart has to work harder. It can also leave the left ventricle with less space to hold blood, which can cause shortness of breath and abnormal heart rhythms.
When dealing with familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, diagnosing and treating it is vital. Doing so at an early stage may prevent the problem from worsening and gives the person suffering from it their best chance at avoiding severe complications and symptoms.
Treatment for this issue ranges. It can include simple lifestyle changes that are designed to improve heart health. It can also include medical intervention that ranges from taking medication to having surgery.
Most people are aware that too much bad cholesterol is bad for your heart. Cholesterol causes blockages in your arteries that restrict blood flow. To avoid this, most people are simply able to avoid foods high in cholesterol, exercise, and avoid smoking.
However, for some people, high cholesterol is a genetic issue. Familial hypercholesterolemia causes a high level of bad cholesterol (LDL). This means they will deal with this issue regardless of other factors.
This is another inherited issue that needs medical consultation. Working with a doctor for treatment is the best way to prevent familial hypercholesterolemia from causing heart issues. This treatment usually comes from medication. However, in extreme cases, a procedure that actually filters cholesterol from the blood is necessary.
Familial Dilated Cardiomyopathy
Familial dilated cardiomyopathy is an inherited heart disease that, like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, affects the muscles in the heart. However, dilated cardiomyopathy causes heart muscles to weaken and become thinner rather than thickening.
Familial dilated cardiomyopathy may lead to one of the heart’s chambers becoming enlarged. This prevents blood from pumping as effectively. If blood continues to pump in an increasingly ineffective way, it can fail to keep up with what the body needs, leading to heart failure.
Once again, diagnosis and treatment of this condition at an early stage are critical. Doing so prevents it from having a chance to get worse and create serious problems.
Diagnosis starts by taking note of an individual’s family tree. If relatives have suffered from familial dilated cardiomyopathy, everyone in the family should be on the lookout for signs that they have it as well. These signs include symptoms like irregular heartbeat, fatigue, shortness of breath, swelling in the abdomen and legs, and fainting. If these issues are noticed, a doctor should be contacted as soon as possible.
Treatment may involve medications like ACE inhibitors and/or beta-blockers. It will also typically include keeping a close watch over the patient to monitor their condition.
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Minimizing Risk From Genetic Heart Disease
While some types of heart disease are passed down directly, others come from a genetic predisposition. Some people are genetically predisposed to issues like high blood pressure, high-stress levels, or diabetes. All of these issues are problematic on their own and can end up leading to heart disease.
Minimizing risk from these issues starts with being aware of them. Many people don’t even realize they have an issue, yet that issue negatively impacts their health. For example, peripheral artery disease impacts a large percentage of the population, especially Black women and men, yet often goes undiagnosed. Regular health screening and conversations with healthcare providers can help these issues receive the attention they require for a diagnosis.
From there, treating the issues is critical. Receiving medication for problems like high blood pressure and diabetes helps prevent the problems associated with them from influencing heart disease. However, this is another place where gaps can be found, as people in lower income levels often have less access to treatment.
Finally, a healthy lifestyle significantly reduces risk all around. Someone may be predisposed to developing a heart issue. However, if that person routinely exercises, eats right, and properly manages their stress, they can reduce the risk that a heart issue will develop. In fact, they may end up having less risk despite their predisposition than someone who lives an unhealthy lifestyle.
Genetic Heart Disease
Genetics can lead to the development of heart disease or can significantly increase the risk of an individual developing it. Diagnosing the problem early and working with a doctor for treatment is essential to dealing with these issues. In addition, healthy lifestyle choices are always helpful.