Heart attacks stay in your genes

There was a time when we spoke of genetics as something fixed and immutable; “Oh, I can’t help my tendency to wear inappropriately tight clothing, my mum did it too, it’s in my genes.” There was a sense that genes were destiny and that nothing could alter them but now we know that your DNA is far more mutable than that. Yes, you inherit your genes from your parents but lifestyle choices and environmental factors can turn genes on or off. This is known as epigenetics and it amounts to the fact that what you do in your lifetime determines how your genes are expressed to a significant degree and this has been illustrated starkly in a new study showing that heart attacks alter your genetic makeup.

According to the researchers during a heart attack the body signals by activating certain genes. These genes cause changes that protect tissue during the acute phase of the heart attack and then restore the body after the heart attack. The researchers therefore speculated that there would also be epigenetic changes as a result of the heart attack.

Their investigations among people who had experienced heart attacks showed that there are indeed many epigenetic changes in those people and the changes were linked to cardiovascular disease. More study needs to be done however, as they could not determine whether these epigenetic changes had contributed to the heart attack or if they live on as a memory of gene activation associated with the heart attack.

It is a reminder though that what you do in this life is at least as important as what you bring into it.

Source: Human Molecular Genetics

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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