The Role of Genetic Testing in Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) – diseases of the heart and blood vessels – indeed remain a significant global health concern. Globally, CVDs have been the key cause of mortality. According to World Heart Report 2023 released by World Heart Federation, approximately 20.5 million people died due to cardiovascular conditions in 2021. The number is close to one-third of all deaths globally. This is a substantial increase from the 12.1 million CVD-related deaths recorded in 1990. The scenario underscores emergence of CVDs as an important cause of death worldwide.
Matter of Choice
It is said that a majority of the heart diseases is preventable. Adopting healthy lifestyle choices in terms of diet and physical activities is perceived to be the way to prevent CVDs. However, that’s more of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. The fact of the matter is that there is a complex relationship between genes and the environment in the development of CVDs. The interplay between genes and the environment is crucial to assess here.
Genetic predisposition when diagnosing cardiovascular disease patient
An individual’s genetic predisposition interact with their lifestyle and environmental factors to either increase or decrease the risk of CVDs. Genetic predisposition, also known as genetic susceptibility, refers to an individual’s increased likelihood of developing a particular disease due to specific genetic variations they carry. These genetic changes are often inherited from one or both parents and can contribute to the development of a disease but do not guarantee that the disease will manifest. For example, someone with a genetic predisposition to high blood pressure is more likely to develop hypertension if she/he adopts an unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle.
Genetic susceptibility tests for identifying individuals at above-average risk for CVD are available in the form of direct-to-consumer test kits. These tests analyse an individual’s DNA to identify specific genetic variations associated with an increased risk of CVD. Progress in genetic research have led to more precise risk assessment and diagnosis of genetic susceptibility to CVDs. DNA-based genetic testing is able to identify individuals at higher risk for certain CVDs, enabling personalized prevention and treatment strategies.
Advantages of Genetic Testing to prevent cardiovascular disease
- DNA-based genetic testing can indeed be a valuable tool in helping patients and their families make informed decisions about managing their heart health, especially in cases where there is an underlying genetic predisposition to CVDs.
- Genetic testing can identify specific genetic variations or mutations associated with an increased risk of certain CVDs. This information allows healthcare providers to assess a patient’s genetic risk profile accurately. Genetic testing enables the formulation of personalized healthcare plans. Patients with identified genetic risk factors can receive tailored recommendations and interventions to manage their heart health effectively.
- Genetic testing can help identify individuals at risk of CVDs at an earlier stage, leading to proactive monitoring and preventive measures. If a genetic mutation associated with CVDs is identified in one family member, it may prompt genetic screening for other at-risk family members. This can help identify individuals who may benefit from early interventions.
In some cases, genetic testing guides treatment decisions. For example, certain genetic factors may influence the choice of medications or interventions. Patients with a genetic predisposition to CVDs can receive guidance on lifestyle modifications tailored to their risk profile. This can include specific dietary recommendations, exercise plans, and strategies for reducing other risk factors.
DNA-based genetic testing can be an effective tool for personalized medication and informed decision-making in managing heart health.
By Subodh Gupta, CEO, Lord’s Mark Microbiotech