Is heart disease hereditary and passes on to generations?

Well, we need to first understand what is hereditary. Hereditary is a process of passing family traits across generations through genes. The genes are not only responsible for passing good traits across the family members but many negative traits responsible for various diseases are also passed on from family members across their generations.

There are many diseases believed to be hereditary, the common ones include heart disease, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, diabetes, cancer, obesity among others. These all diseases are examples of multifactorial inheritance, also called complex or polygenic inheritance. Generally, cause of multifactorial inheritance is a combination of environmental factors and mutations in multiple genes.

Now coming on to heart disease’s connection with your ancestral genes. There is one factor which keeps us wondering, how come a person without having any vices such as smoking and drinking get heart disease at the age of 40 or less but a person with moderate to heavy drinking and smoking habits live a longer life. Even people thriving on burgers and junk foods can live till 90s whereas some pure vegetarian people have a heart attack at 40. Well, answer to this question lies in your genes which are transferred from your ancestors. It has been found that inherited heart conditions passes on through families and can affect people of any ages and can be life-threatening too.

What are the common inherited heart conditions?

Cardiomyopathies, inherited arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) and very high cholesterol levels are some of the most common inherited heart conditions.

Inherited Cardiomyopathies: Cardiomyopathies is a condition impacting the heart muscles. The causes of Cardiomyopathies are exactly not known yet, but it has found that they are inherited.

Types of inherited Cardiomyopathies:

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy
  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy
Inherited arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms): A condition wherein there are abnormal heart rhythms and this condition is passed through generations. Arrhythmias poses risk of life-threatening abnormal heart rate conditions such as ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation which can even result in sudden cardiac death.
Very high cholesterol levels:  Familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) is a hereditary or genetic condition wherein people by birth have exceptionally high cholesterol levels. The cholesterol levels remain exceptionally high in the blood as liver is unable to remove adequate non-HDL cholesterol from the blood. High cholesterol levels are major factors for deposition of fatty materials in the arteries resulting in various chronic heart conditions.

It has been noted and proved that the risk of heart attack increases if your near relatives such as parents or siblings have had a heart attack or stroke while their age is 40-45 years if they are male and for females the age is generally between 50-55 years.

What are the common symptoms for inherited heart conditions?

Generally, it has been noted that some people do not show any systems for inherited heart conditions, however some people do show symptoms like: Dizziness, palpitations and     blackouts.

What factors can fight against the process of family history driven heart disease?

Although, it is not possible to change the family history but improvements in lifestyle can help in fighting with the inherited heart conditions. The following factors can help fight the inherited heart conditions:

  • Quit smoking, as smoking can help in reducing the bad cholesterols
  • Acquiring active lifestyle which involves exercise and walking
  • Eating healthy food having lower level of fat and cholesterol

People with family history of sudden cardiac death victims should always undergo routine medical screening so that these conditions can tested in advance.

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