A person’s genetics can play a significant role in developing certain types of heart disease. However, people with inherited risk factors can make lifestyle changes to help reduce their chances of developing heart disease.

Heart disease is the overall name for several conditions that can affect a person’s heart or blood vessels. These conditions can cause chest pain, stroke, or a heart attack. A person’s genetics, which they receive from their parents, can influence their risk of developing certain heart conditions.

This article discusses the role of genes in heart disease and how to manage heart health.

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Genetic factors play a role in a person’s risk of developing certain heart diseases. Hereditary traits can increase the risk of heart disease or other related health conditions. For example, 2018 research estimates that 40–60% of people are susceptible to coronary artery disease (CAD) due to genetic factors.

A person may have certain gene alterations that affect their heart and heart functioning. These genes may make them more susceptible to developing heart disease. For health conditions that follow a dominant inheritance pattern, a parent has a 1 in 2 chance of passing these genes onto their child.

Different gene variations can cause certain heart conditions. For example, the following genes have a link with the development of cardiomyopathies:

Other genes can also cause associated conditions that may increase the risk of heart disease, such as familial hypercholesterolemia (FH):

There are several types of inherited heart conditions. Some of the most common include:

  • cardiomyopathies
  • channelopathies
  • FH


If a person has a cardiomyopathy condition, their heart muscles have a reduced ability to pump blood. This can weaken a person’s heart and cause:

If a person has cardiomyopathy, they may have symptoms including:

Examples of inherited cardiomyopathies include:


Channelopathies are conditions that occur due to issues with an ion channel in the body. These are proteins that allow the flow of ions across cells. Ion channels play an important role in sending electrical impulses that control the rhythm and contraction of the heart.

These issues with ion channels can lead to arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat. People with channelopathies may experience symptoms such as:

Examples of inherited channelopathies include:

  • long QT syndrome (LQTS)
  • Brugada syndrome
  • catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT)
  • progressive cardiac conduction defect (PCCD)

Familial hypercholesterolemia

This inherited condition can cause a person to have high levels of low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol. FH affects about 1 in 250 people and can increase the risk of developing heart disease.

Symptoms can include:

  • bumps around the elbows, knees, or knuckles
  • yellow areas around the eyes
  • swollen and painful Achilles tendons
  • gray-white crescents around the outside of the eyes

People with a family history of heart diseases can collect information from their close relatives. Doctors can use this data to help reduce someone’s heart disease risk. A person should find out:

  • which of their relatives have had heart disease
  • the age at which doctors diagnosed their relatives with heart disease
  • the ages and causes of death of their relatives

Doctors can also use genetic laboratory testing to look at a person’s genes. This can help a doctor confirm if a person has genes that may increase their risk of developing heart disease.

People with heart disease can take preventive measures to help manage their heart health. These can include:

  • Avoiding certain fats: A diet high in saturated or trans fats may increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease.
  • Eating less salt: Too much salt in a person’s diet can raise a person’s blood pressure. High blood pressure increases a person’s risk of developing heart disease.
  • Quitting smoking: Smoking raises a person’s blood pressure, putting them at higher risk of heart disease.
  • Drinking less alcohol: Too much alcohol increases a person’s blood pressure and levels of a blood substance called triglycerides. Both increase the risk of the person developing heart disease.
  • Managing stress: Stress raises a person’s blood pressure and, therefore, their risk of developing heart disease. It can also lead a person to indirectly develop heart disease through coping mechanisms such as smoking, heavy alcohol use, or eating in excess.
  • Regularly exercising: Not getting enough physical activity can lead a person to develop heart disease and increase their risk of developing other medical conditions.
  • Managing their weight: If a person has obesity, they are more at risk for developing other conditions that may lead to heart disease, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

A person’s genetics may increase their risk of developing certain types of heart disease. If a person’s family has a history of heart disease, they should consult a doctor to discuss screening options. These can include collecting information from relatives and undergoing genetic screening.

Additionally, a person may consider adopting certain lifestyle choices, such as exercising regularly, following a healthy eating plan, and quitting smoking if necessary to help reduce their risk of developing heart conditions.