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Are there Heart Attack Genes? An Intro to Genetics and Heart Disease

Hand showing dna

When you go to the doctor for a regular check-up, most of the time, you’re asked if you have a family history of heart disease. It’s usually also a concern if parents or siblings have had a stroke or heart attack at an early age. That’s because it’s pretty well-known that genetics has something to do with heart disease. In fact, in a recent report from the American Heart Association, it’s stated that about 40 percent of coronary artery disease (CAD) is related to genetics!

Knowing that a lot of CAD is related to genetics, you may wonder if there are specific genetic tests that you can have done to tell if you are at high risk for a heart attack or stroke.  In the last 15 years, scientists have found a significant number of them.

Genetic Testing for Heart Attack Risk

Gene Variant 9p21

The gene most predictive of coronary disease is the gene variant 9p21. And because of that, some people call it the “heart attack gene.” As you might know, genes always come in pairs – one from mom and one from dad. If you have one copy of the 9p21 gene variant, which is called being heterozygous, your risk of heart disease is about 25 percent higher; and if you have two copies, which is called being homozygous, your risk is more than 50 percent higher. Now it turns out that almost three-fourths of all Caucasians and Asians have either one or two copies of this gene.

Apo E Gene

Another gene related to heart disease risk is called the Apo E gene. This gene affects a variety of certain types of fat molecules in your blood, making them more dangerous to you. Information about this gene will help you know what kind of diet you should eat to prevent heart disease, and it can guide you as to the best exercise routine for you to follow.

KIF6 Gene

A third gene related to heart disease is called the KIF6 gene. This one is interesting because it can somewhat predict what particular statin drug a person is most likely to benefit from in the prevention of heart disease. In other words, when it comes to using cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins, they won’t all work on every person the same partly because of your genetic makeup.

*Note – The three tests above should arguably be tested on everyone interested in heart attack prevention. The cost is reported to be $100-200 per test.

4q25 or the AF gene

The last gene I’ll mention is called 4q25 or the Atrial Fibrillation gene. If you have this gene, you are 40-70 percent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation, which carries a significant risk of stroke. About 30 percent of the population is positive for this gene. You should be tested if you have a history suggestive of AF, a family history of AF, before having a cardiac bypass operation, or if you have a personal history of a stroke of uncertain cause.

For more information on heart health, including testing and prevention methods, contact our office today.