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Are Heart Diseases Genetic?

Shanika's picture

            Heart disease is the deadliest affliction in the western world! In the United States alone, 1.2 million people suffer from heart attacks every year and at least 452,000 die as a result (American Heart Association, 4).  It is accounted for 40% of all deaths in the United States (Avoid heart disease, 1). Acknowledging that Heart disease is the number one cause of death amongst Americans, it is important to understand how heart diseases function. Over the years, many scientist have made observations that have high correlations between heart disease and genetics. But before exploring the issues of “if it is Genetic or not”, we must have a clear understanding of how the heart works, the many causes of heart diseases and what genes are.

            The heart is a system that pumps blood around the body. The blood provides the body with the oxygen and nutrients it needs. The body would not be able to function with out the constant flow of the blood from the heart and throughout the body. What cause the failure of this system are blood clots. Blood clots slow down and or stop the flow of the blood throughout the body. One thing that can cause blood clots is having high levels of cholesterol in the blood (What causes heart disease, 1). Before I explore the issue of how it can cause blood clots, one must fully understand what cholesterol is to comprehend the linkage between it and genes.

            Cholesterol is one of the body’s fats lipids. It is important because it helps produce energy. There are two types of cholesterol, High-density-cholesterol (HDL) and Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL). In this paper I will be exploring LDL because it is known as the bad cholesterol that affects the heart negatively. High cholesterol occurs when you have too much LDL. When one have high cholesterol, it can build up along the walls of your arteries. LDL is transported from the arteries and can be held there by arterial proteoglycans, which forms plaque. When too much plaque builds up, it can block the flow of blood. If an artery that supplies blood to your heart or to your brain is completely blocked, the result can be a stroke or a heart attack (Attacking Heart Disease as its Genetic Base, 3). According to what was explained previously, high LDL is powerful cholesterol that can have a negative effect of the heart system flow because it can block blood vessels. What does LDL have to do with genetics?             LDL is raised by a gene variant called apolipoprotein A-4 (APOA4). A gene variant is genes that is basically the same, but has “mutational” differences. APOA4 is a chromosome that produces LDL (Gene Variant Increases heart Disease, 1). Because APOA4 is a chromosome that is a part of human DNA, it makes LDL Genetic and a part of human make up. Furthermore, Senior Scientist Jose explains in his article Attacking Heart Disease as its Genetic Base; the four components under “genetic control contributes to coronary artery disease”, one being high blood lipids including LDL (2). This proves that LDL is a genetic trait that increases tendencies of forming blood clots. 

According to the observations stated previously, heart disease is genetic, but I believe it is influenced by what we consume, what we do in our daily lives, and our environment. These are also factors that may lead to the production of genes that causes heart disease. To explain my story, I have learned that many foods that have “deleterious man-made trans fats, refined carbohydrates and sweets” can cause high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol (Heart disease: Are modern lifestyles at fault, 1). Foods that have trans fat and saturated fats such as: meat, milk, cheese, butter, and any other food that contain coconut oil can cause LDL. Sweets such as chocolate chip cookies and Sour patch kids can also cause LDL because of it has high glucose and fats in them. It is also mentioned in the article Eating for a Healthy Heart ,that although sodium is good for the body many people tend to abuse eating it, by adding a lot of salt to their food. Having to much sodium and our bodies is unhealthy for the heart also. The more calories we eat, the more weight we gain. Being overweight can also cause heart disease (1). Overall, eating unhealthy causes the symptoms that can cause heart diseases. High LDL would not exist in many people lives if people eat healthier. Since high LDL is found in a gene, it is possible to say that the gene subsists only because of human’s poor eating habits.

            Scientific research supports in addition to a healthy diet that is low in glucose and in fat, that living a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of heart problems. Living a healthy lifestyle includes not smoking, excising regularly and cutting down on alcohol (What causes heart disease, 1). It is observed that having an active lifestyle and physical excising can strengthen the heart and reduce the risk of heart disease (Inflammation of the heart arteries, 2). As stated previously, it is clear that things like smoking, eating unhealthy, and not exercising can cause heart disease with out it being genetic. To further explore this notion Scientist Ordavos said that it is a relationship between genes and life styles that causes heart problems (Attacking the heart disease as its Genetic Base, 2).  He is stating that it is a combination of both genes and lifestyles that causes heart problems. More importantly, he acknowledges that life style can cause heart problems, but he is also recognizes two other points: (1) it is not only one thing that causes heart disease but both, (2) possibly one can lead to another. This proves my theory that what we do in our lives, can cause the bad gene that gives people heart disease.  With this being said Scientists have also mentioned that not only is life style important in deciding whether or not a person will actually be affected by heart disease, but also ones environment.

            Research has also shown that most people with a genetic risk of heart disease have inherited several genes, some of these genes only have an effect when other environmental factors are present (Genes and heart disease, 1). This not only justifies that the environment can cause heart problems, but that some genes that contribute to heart problems are caused by the environment. In the article Factors Contributing to Congenital Heart Disease, Cardiovascular disorder researchers asserts how a birth defect (including ones that cause heart diseases), comes from factors are usually both genetic and environmental, “where a combination of genes from both parents, in addition to unknown environmental factors, produce the trait or condition(1).” Meaning a baby born with birth defects, bad qualities, comes from a mixture of genes and the environment that causes the trait in the child. These birth defects, including heart disease, may be the result of the behaviors and the surroundings of the parents that results in the bad traits that are formed. According to these findings, our surroundings do play an important role in the basis of heart diseases.

             Heart disease is the deadliest affliction in the western world! When trying to figure out the causes of heart diseases, it is important that scientists look at the complex of interactions between a number of genes, and a whole host of life style and environmental factors. Yes heart diseases are genetic, but it is important to involve the questions and reasoning of “How was the gene created? It is crucial to recap that some of the genes that cause heart problems are due to unhealthy eating behaviors, and lifestyles. These factors are independent, which can cause heart diseases on their own.Our observations of how the heart can be interrupted include all of the factors of living life and all that it has to offer.  


Gideon, Gil,“American Heart Association”.2007.September 2007. html


“Avoid heart disease”2002. September 2007.



Cardiovascular Disorders.“Factors Contributing to Congenital Heart Disease”.February 2004.September 2007.


Hunt, Andrew, “Genes and heart disease”.February 2006.September 2007.


FDA U.S Food and Drug Administration. “Eating for a Healthy Heart”.-.September 2007



Sin Chew Daily.“Inflammation of the heart arteries”. March 2006. September 2007


Muedin ,Leyla,RD,CDN. “Heart disease: Are modern lifestyles at fault?”.Fall 2006.September 2007


USDA United States Department of Agriculture. “Attacking Heart Disease as its Genetic Base”.July 1999.September 2007


Science Museum.“What causes heart disease”.-.September 2007.




Shanika's picture


Interesting...I thought genes are created due to one's lifestyle! What do you mean by "their expression can be affected"?
Shanika Bridges-King
Paul Grobstein's picture

genes and heart disease

Maybe it is important to look at "the complex of interactions between a number of genes, and a whole host of life style and environmental factors" in lots of situations? See my comments on asavvannah's paper on lupus. Its probably important as well to take advantage of simplifications when one can. As we'll see in the course, genes can't be "due to unhealthy eating behaviors, and lifestyles." The genes one gets from one's parents are unaltered in one's own lifetime; what can be affected is their expression.