Watch: Finding the genes that cause heart disease
BHF scientists are looking at our genes to find new ways to stop people suffering from heart disease. Watch our video to learn more about this work and find out how your genes affect your heart.
Characteristics are passed down from one generation to the next in your genes. Your genes can affect your risk of heart disease, as well as many other conditions.
Some inherited conditions, such as familial hypercholesterolaemia and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, are caused by a mutation in just one gene. This is also what happens in Marfan syndrome, which can cause a dangerous aneurysm in the main blood vessel in your body. We've funded Dr Sanjay Sinha and his team to study cells from patients with Marfan syndrome, and use them to find new treatments that will work to counteract the damaging effects of the gene variation.
The most common form of heart disease, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attacks), is influenced by your genes, but there are many different genes that can affect your risk. You may be born with some variations that increase your risk and some that reduce your risk. Our Medical Director, Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, and his colleagues in Leicester identified one of the first common genetic variants linked to risk of heart attack. Now more than 90 of these variants have been discovered, most of these through an international collaboration established by Professor Samani. If you carry one variant, it doesn’t mean you will have a heart attack. If you carry 40, 50, or more, this is associated with a six times higher lifetime risk of heart attack.
But that doesn't mean that your heart disease risk is out of your control. Having a healthy lifestyle, such as not smoking, being physically active and having a healthy diet, can still reduce your risk.