Harvard Heart Letter

Coping with what you can't change

A cluster of nonmodifiable risk factors should nudge you to pay attention to those you can change.

The constant tug-of-war between nature and nurture shapes the heart's present and future. Ongoing interactions between genes and the environment — which includes your habits and lifestyle as well as the air you breathe and the water you drink — direct the heart along the path to health or disease.

We write a lot about factors you can control to protect your heart and blood vessels — things like exercising more, not smoking, reducing stress, and controlling blood pressure. Cardiologists call these modifiable risk factors. But they aren't the only factors that affect your heart.

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