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hereditary diseases to watcHeart disease is currently the world's leading cause of death. Heart disease is not just one condition but a combination of several different conditions that negatively impact the heart. Most heart diseases are referred to as cardiovascular diseases. These involve blocked or narrowed arteries that often lead to heart attacks or stroke. However, there are other heart conditions which are also be referred to as heart disease  and which negatively impact the heart - rhythm, myocardium, valves, and other parts of the heart. Heart disease is a very dangerous condition to have and live with. There's nothing surprising in the fact that people with heart disease worry about whether their heart condition is hereditary and could possibly be passed on to their children.

Is heart disease hereditary?

 

Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, it is hereditary. It is possible to develop heart disease both from having an unhealthy lifestyle and from inheriting genes and/or predispositions from your parents. In fact, heart disease is becoming more and more widespread and more common in the United States despite the fact that there are now fewer smokers and obese individuals. There are now many people with heart disease who have simply inherited it from their parents. Even people who develop heart disease through an unhealthy lifestyle can pass it on to their children.

This is mostly due to the wonders of modern medicine. In the past, many seriously ill patients didn't live long enough to pass on the disease to their offspring. Modern medicine, however, keeps them alive and makes it possible to bring a child into the world and keep a child alive even if unhealthy. Type 1 diabetics are a great example. Medicine has given these individuals a chance to live long enough to have children and pass on their disease.

Here are some heart diseases that can be directly inherited from the parent:

  • Coronary artery disease is characterized by a buildup of plaque in the arteries which limits the amount of oxygen that gets to the heart. It was determined that CAD can be passed on by a first-degree relative who has become ill with coronary artery disease at an early age.1
  • Cardiomyopathy is a type of heart disease that affects the heart's physical structure and makes it more difficult for it to pump blood. In some cases, this condition is hereditary.2
  • Arrhythmia affects the heart's ability to contract and relax and affects the heart's electrical system. This condition often causes a heartbeat that is too slow, too fast, or irregular, and may even cause sudden death.3

There are also many conditions and factors that indirectly increase the chances of a heart disease. Here are just a few:

  • DNKType 1 and 2 diabetes are both hereditary and can get passed on to the offspring. Although diabetes is not a heart disease, it can create certain conditions that lead to heart disease. Diabetes increases systemic inflammation and slows down blood flow, which significantly speeds up atherosclerosis. In fact, diabetes almost always leads to atherosclerosis. Children who do not inherit diabetes from their parents are also at risk for heart disease. Many are predisposed to being obese, and that obesity can turn into heart disease in the future.4
  • It is hard to call obesity an inherited disease. In most cases, obesity appears as a result of an unhealthy lifestyle. A child who is born of an obese parent or parents will not necessarily be obese, but he or she is predisposed to the condition. Obesity is one of the leading causes of heart disease.
  • Familial hypercholesterolemia. It is a hereditary disease that can be characterized by a high level of cholesterol in the blood. It is one of the causes of atherosclerosis.
  • Autoimmune diseases. There are a plethora of such diseases. Just a few of them include polyarthritis, lupus, Hashimoto's disease, Crohn's disease and others. The children of people sick with these conditions have an increased chance of having type I diabetes, which is a major cause of heart disease. These individuals also run a high risk of suffering from other cardiovascular diseases. 

What to do if heart conditions run in your family

Genetics are not something we can control. Even someone who maintains a healthy lifestyle can suffer from heart disease just because their parent or parents suffered from it. Heart conditions are hereditary, but there are things one can do to stay healthy. By keeping an eye on some of the major risk factors, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and smoking, it is possible to significantly decrease your chances of suffering from heart disease. It is a good idea to start getting your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly after the age of eighteen. Getting tested for diabetes is another step in the right direction. However, the best weapon against heart problems is a healthy lifestyle. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and no smoking are keys to having a healthy heart. 

 


 

References:

1  Higgins, M. (2000) Epidemiology and prevention of coronary heart disease in families. American Journal of Medicine, 108(5), 387-395.

Brown, M.S., et al. (1981) Regulation of plasma cholesterol by lipoprotein receptors. Science, 212, 628-635.

Rosenblatt, D.S. (1995) Inherited disorders of folate transport and metabolism. In C.R. Scriver et al. (Eds.), The Metabolic and Molecular Bases of Inherited Disease (pp.3111-3128). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Co.

Ellsworth, D. L., et al. (1999) Coronary heart disease: at the interface of molecular genetics and preventive medicine. Am J Prev Med, 15(2), 122-133.

 2  Higgins, M. (2000) Epidemiology and prevention of coronary heart disease in families. American Journal of Medicine, 108(5), 387-395.

Brown, M.S., et al. (1981) Regulation of plasma cholesterol by lipoprotein receptors. Science, 212, 628-635.

Rosenblatt, D.S. (1995) Inherited disorders of folate transport and metabolism. In C.R. Scriver et al. (Eds.), The Metabolic and Molecular Bases of Inherited Disease (pp.3111-3128). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Co.

Ellsworth, D. L., et al. (1999) Coronary heart disease: at the interface of molecular genetics and preventive medicine. Am J Prev Med, 15(2), 122-133.

 3  Hofman N, Wilde AA, Tan HL. Diagnostic criteria for congenital long QT syndrome in the era of molecular genetics: do we need a scoring system? Eur Heart J. 2007;28

Ackerman MJ, Tester DJ, Porter CJ. Swimming, a gene-specific arrhythmogenic trigger for inherited long QT syndrome. Mayo Clin Proc. 1999;74:1088–1094.

Kauferstein S, Kiehne N, Neumann T, Pitschner H, Bratzke H. Cardiac gene defects can cause sudden cardiac death in young people. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2009;106(4):41–47.

Behr ER, Dalageorgou C, Christiansen M, et al. Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome: familial evaluation identifies inheritable heart disease in the majority of families. Eur Heart J. 2008;29:1670–1680.

 4  Am I at risk for type 2 diabetes? (2014, July 9). Retrieved from http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/risk fortype2

Dean, L., & McEntyre, J. (2004). The genetic landscape of diabetes. National Center for Biotechnology Information, chapter 3. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK1668/

Genetics of diabetes. (2014, May 20). Retrieved from http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/genetics-of-diabetes.html

National diabetes statistics report, 2014. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/statsreport14/national-diabetes-report-web.pdf

Walston, J., Silver, K., Bogardus, C., Knowler, W. C., Celi, F. S., Auston, S., Shuldiner, A. R. (1995, August 10). Time of onset of non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus and genetic variation in the B(3)-adrenergic receptor gene [Full article]. New England Journal of Medicine, 333(343-347). Retrieved from http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199508103330603#t=articleTop

 5  Yang W, Kelly T, He J (2007). "Genetic epidemiology of obesity". Epidemiol Rev 29: 49–61. doi:10.1093/epirev/mxm004. PMID 17566051

Poirier P, Giles TD, Bray GA, et al. (May 2006). "Obesity and cardiovascular disease: pathophysiology, evaluation, and effect of weight loss". Arterioscler. Thromb. Vasc. Biol. 26 (5): 968–76. doi:10.1161/01.ATV.0000216787.85457.f3. PMID 16627822

 6  Austin MA, Hutter CM, Zimmern RL, Humphries SE. Familial hypercholesterolemia and coronary heart disease: a HuGE association review. Am J Epidemiol. 2004 Sep 1;160(5):421-9. Review. PubMed citationThis link leads to a site outside Genetics Home Reference.

Austin MA, Hutter CM, Zimmern RL, Humphries SE. Genetic causes of monogenic heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia: a HuGE prevalence review. Am J Epidemiol. 2004 Sep 1;160(5):407-20. Review. PubMed citationThis link leads to a site outside Genetics Home Reference.

Civeira F; International Panel on Management of Familial Hypercholesterolemia. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia. Atherosclerosis. 2004 Mar;173(1):55-68. Review. PubMed citationThis link leads to a site outside Genetics Home Reference.

 7  Klein J, Sato A (September 2000). "The HLA system. Second of two parts". N. Engl. J. Med. 343 (11): 782–6. doi:10.1056/NEJM200009143431106. PMID 10984567

 

 

 

 
 
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