What is heart disease?Your heart pumps blood around your body. It is supplied with oxygen by the coronary arteries. In coronary heart disease, these arteries become furred up with fatty deposits, so that not enough oxygen reaches the heart. A person may suffer a heart attack if the coronary arteries become completely blocked. Coronary heart disease is one of the most common causes of death in the Western world.
What else causes heart disease?
Heart disease has many causes. A high level of cholesterol in the blood increases the risk of heart disease. So do smoking and high levels of substances that usually help the blood to clot. Some people are more prone to heart disease than others because of their genetic make-up. But even if you have a family history of heart problems, you can greatly reduce your risk by not smoking, exercising regularly and cutting down on the amount of animal fat and alcohol in your diet.
Which genes have been associated with heart disease?
Heart disease runs in some families. This can be due to variations in the genes that affect the levels of cholesterol in the blood. People with familial hypercholesterolaemia are born with twice the normal level of cholesterol in their blood. Other people have gene variants that increase blood pressure, or the tendency of the blood to form clots. For people with an increased genetic risk, a healthy diet and lifestyle are even more important in reducing their risk of heart disease.