World Heart Day (29th September) is an international, educational, campaign day for cardiovascular disease. Not just this day, but every day, lifestyle and preventative measures to reduce the risk of CVD should be considered.

Cardiovascular (heart) disease is the leading cause of death globally, with most heart conditions having a strong underlying genetic or familial link, with an estimated 17.9 million deaths each year. CVDs are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels and include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease and other conditions. Four out of five CVD deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes, and one third of these deaths occur prematurely in the under 70’s age group.

Classic ‘environmental’ cardiovascular risk factors such as age, smoking, diabetes and eating habits do not cause CVD alone, they contribute roughly 50% to the likelihood of developing a severe cardiovascular problem with the remaining 50% being genetic risk. Both genetic and classic risk factors should be considered together when assessing an individual level of CVD risk. By understanding the patient’s genetic predisposition, combined with classic risk factors, clinicians are more precisely informed to take action to limit risk and improve future health and lifestyle choices.