A new study has found that heart attacks are not inevitable for such people, and their outcomes are greatly influenced by their lifestyle choices.
Heart attacks are caused by the sudden interruption or blockage of the blood supply to the heart. The more risk factors for coronary heart disease a person has, the greater their chance of developing it and, in turn, suffering a heart attack.
Lifestyle triggers include a fatty diet and obesity, a lack of physical activity, smoking, stress, and excessive alcohol consumption.
Dr Benjamin Horne, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at the Intermountain Medical Centre Heart Institute in Murray, Utah, studied patients with different severities of coronary disease, some of whom who had suffered a heart attack.
Dr Horne and his team found that while severe coronary artery disease can be inherited regardless of whether someone has a heart attack, the presence of heart attacks in people with less severe coronary disease was not clustered in families.
“This link between the registry and the medical records allowed us to look at information about both heart attacks and the degree of coronary disease,” explained Dr Horne, who presented the findings at the annual conference of the American Society of Human Genetics in San Diego, California.
“That means we can compare heart attack patients to people with coronary disease who were free from heart attacks.”
The findings could help researchers design better genetic studies on heart attacks, which, in turn, could assist in finding the limited set of genetic mutations that cause some people to be more susceptible to heart attacks.
“Because coronary disease and heart attacks are so closely related, researchers in the past have assumed they’re the same thing. They thought that if someone had coronary disease, they would eventually have a heart attack,” Horne said.
“This finding may help people realise that, through their choices, they have greater control over whether they ultimately have a heart attack.”