Heart Disease Genetic?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 07, 2012 at 4:27 PM

So we got into a conversation at my office today and I couldn't really come up with a good answer so I thought I would ask it here. We were talking about heart disease and specifically people having to have bypass surgery. Both of my coworkers had parents or step parents who had to have bypass surgery but they both felt that the patient was generally healthy and that it was genetic. One guys pointed out that his grandparent also died at a very young age of heart disease and they didn't eat processed foods back in the 40s and 50s so it must be genetic.

What are your thoughts regarding the genetic argument for severe heart disease? Obviously the diet back in the 40s and 50s was not Paleo but it was not the SAD either. I associate obesity with heart disease but is it also prevalent in "skinny-fat" people?

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2 Answers


on March 07, 2012
at 05:09 PM

UC Davis' Judith Stern: "Genetics loads the gun, but environment pulls the trigger."



on March 07, 2012
at 05:27 PM

As with most diseases there is usually a certain attribution from genetic disposition as well as environmental factors which make worsen a persons health. Babies are born with heart defects etc which would put them at increased risk of complications later on in life. My father was recently informed when he went in for a heart bypass that he had narrow arteries all his life which he never knew. In public health terms this could be seen as a persons susceptibility to a known illness/ailment.

In relation to heart surgery we have become "brilliant" at diagnosing "early signs" of heart disease. Bypass surgery in Britain is a very common procedure, all the time compounding the the cost of healthcare and reliance upon the health service. Meanwhile the NHS continue to tell people to cut fats, eat heart healthy grains and slow release carbohydrates. I was shocked that many patients are still advised to eat flora instead of butter!

In the case of your friends grandparent dying at a young age, we had neither the technology or the know-how back then to diagnose heart conditions, and yes people did drop dead before they received treatment. We were also farming grains on a industrial scale and eating margarine around this period

Medicine has also completely changed in this time. Cardiology is a very recent invention in our evolution and before the 1920s did not exist, people just weren't dying of heart disease at the same rate. It was a rarity.

Today we have a bigger problem in that the occurrence of heart disease has increased as well as our ability to treat it. We have this problem with many illnesses across the board essentially creating people who live sicker, longer.

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