Genetics and a Healthy Heart

Editor’s note: Pending an FDA decision, 23andMe no longer offers new customers access to health reports referred to in this post. Customers who purchased prior to November 22, 2013 will still be able to see their health reports, but those who purchased after that time will not. Those customers will have access to ancestry information as well as access to their uninterpreted raw data.

February is American Heart Month and a time to focus on what remains the nation’s number one killer — heart disease — which is responsible for one in three deaths in the United States every year.

Why heart disease is so deadly has a lot to do with lifestyle and diet in America. Obesity, even among the very young, is increasingly commonplace, and the majority of Americans do not get enough exercise, according to the American Heart Association.

Fortunately, we can all reduce our risk of heart disease. We can exercise more, eat right and reduce stress in our lives. But it’s also important to understand, that like many health conditions, genetic factors contribute to heart disease risk.

Understanding how your genetics plays a role can help you craft the most effective plan for a healthy heart.

23andMe reports on several genetic factors that impact heart health, such as those associated with coronary heart disease andatrial fibrillation, as well as a rare heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. We also have reports on how your genes affect your response toanti-clotting drugs to reduce the risk of heart attack.

The role genetics plays in these different conditions varies greatly. In some cases, such as in coronary heart disease, many of the genetic factors involved are not yet fully known.

While you can’t change your genetics, you can do a lot to change your risks for heart disease by changing your lifestyle. Cutting out smoking, lowering cholesterol, exercising more and eating right can go a long way towards keeping your heart healthy.