Heart Health and Genetics

Explore and understand the traits you get from your parents, grandparents, and beyond — and how they affect your health.

Every year, more than 600,000 people will die from heart disease in the United States. The likelihood that you’ll suffer from coronary artery disease and other heart conditions depends on a variety of factors, including your genetics. Read on to learn how your family history and genetic background can impact your heart health.

Genetics Can Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease

While you can control some of your heart disease risk factors, such as your diet and activity level, you can’t change your genetic risk factors. Some people are simply predisposed to heart disease by their DNA.

Cardiac genetic conditions can be categorized into two groups:

  • Monogenic Conditions: A single gene that causes a specific type of heart disease — such as long QT syndrome, a rare condition that impacts the heart’s electrical system
  • Polygenic Conditions: Genes that incrementally increase your risk of coronary artery disease and other heart conditions

Scientists have identified almost 70 DNA variants that can impact your heart disease risk. The more variants you have, the higher your risk of serious heart disease.

Know Your Heart Disease Risk Level and Take Control

You don’t necessarily need to undergo genetic testing to understand your heart health risks. Instead, look at your family and personal health histories. If you are overweight, diabetic, use tobacco, or have high blood pressure, you are at an increased risk of heart disease. You’re also more likely to have a genetic predisposition for heart disease if your siblings, parents, or grandparents have heart disease diagnoses — especially if they occurred at a younger age. To assess your heart disease risk, you can also complete the American Heart Association’s My Life Check® assessment.

It’s important to remember that an increased risk of heart disease isn’t a death sentence. In fact, preventive treatment and lifestyle choices can significantly reduce your chance of getting or dying from heart disease. A series of clinical studies show that regular exercise and a heart-healthy diet can decrease your likelihood of coronary artery disease or atrial fibrillation diagnosis by as much as 60% — even if you are genetically predisposed to heart disease.

However, if you already have a heart disease diagnosis, you should consult with your primary care physician or cardiologist before starting a new exercise program or diet. Your doctors will assess the program’s safety and might suggest modifications or other alternative exercises to ensure your safety. To find a Canopy Health physician, search our online directory.

Canopy Health’s Alliance Delivers Some of the Best Heart Care in the Bay Area

Canopy Health members can choose to seek treatment with some of the most respected cardiologists, surgeons, and heart centers in the Bay Area.

Our alliance includes:

  • Good Samaritan Cardiac and Vascular InstituteReceived the highest rating possible from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons for its heart bypass program
  • John Muir Health: Both the Concord and Walnut Creek campuses hold the highest level of accreditation possible from the Society for Chest Pain Centers, and the Concord campus’ Cardiovascular Institute contains private cardiovascular patient rooms, five heart catheterization labs, and a 12-bed cardiovascular ICU
  • Marin General Haynes Cardiovascular InstituteA Healthgrades Five-Star recipient for the treatment of heart attacks since 2014, its cardiac catheterization labs consistently beat national standards for response times
  • Regional Medical Center of San Jose: Ranked as one of the 100 Best Hospitals for cardiac care from 2015 to 2017
  • Sequoia Hospital Heart and Vascular Institute: Delivers some of the fastest emergency cardiac care in the country and was named one of America’s 50 Best Hospitals for cardiac surgery by HealthGrades. It is affiliated with the Cleveland Clinic’s top-rated cardiovascular program.
  • St. Mary’s Medical Center: A Healthgrades Five-Star recipient for heart attack care in 2018 and a leader in less-invasive heart bypass surgeries
  • UCSF Heart and Vascular Center: Ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best heart programs in the United States, it is a leader in heart transplants and houses the UCSF Cardiovascular Genetics Program, which helps patients understand their genetic predisposition for heart disease

Many of our hospitals are designated receiving centers for heart failure and severe heart attacks, ensuring that our members will receive exceptional responsive care no matter where they live, work, and play.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017, November 28). Heart disease facts. CDC. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

Maldarelli, C. (2018, April 16). If your genes put you at risk of heart disease, exercise might be able to help. Popular Science. Retrieved from https://www.popsci.com/exercise-heart-health-genetics