Four different studies were recently analyzed which contained around 55,000 participants about reducing the risk of heart disease by living a healthy lifestyle even when a person has a high genetic risk. The research was done by Dr. Sekar Kathiresan, the director of the Center for Human Genetic Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, and his colleagues. It was the first attempt to use large data to analyze the effects of genes and lifestyle in the risk for heart disease.
It was found that genes can double a person's risk for heart disease, but living a healthy lifestyle can cut that risk in half. It was also found that living an unhealthy lifestyle gets rid of about half the benefits of good genetics. Dr. Michael Lauer, a cardiologist who is the deputy director for extramural research at the National Institutes of Health, said the study was impressive because the studies were large and the results were consistent and convincing even with varied populations. The results of the studies should appeal to those who emphasize genetics and to those who emphasize healthy lifestyles.
The research started about a year and a half ago. A genetic score was developed based on 50 genes that are related to heart disease. A lifestyle score was also developed based on whether someone smoked, exercised at least once a week, whether they followed a healthy diet, and whether they were obese. An optimum lifestyle score was a person who had three or all four of the elements. The study showed very strong results because of the large sample size and showed that even though each of the 50 genes contributed a small amount, all of them together had a large significance.