How do race and ethnicity affect heart risk?

Your genetic background and cultural identity are both important, but they're only part of the story.

In recent years, many people curious about their heritage have done at-home DNA tests such as those sold by 23andMe or Ancestry. By analyzing variations in your DNA, the tests can reveal where your distant ancestors may have lived, providing clues to your racial and ethnic heritage. These results are usually presented in percentages by geographic location — for example, Western Europe, Northern Africa, Central America, and Southern Asia.

But does that information reveal any hints about your risk of cardiovascular disease? In the United States, certain racial and ethnic groups face a higher risk of dying from heart disease than others. The latest statistics from the American Heart Association show the highest risk among blacks. Non-Hispanic whites are second, with the lowest risk seen among Hispanics (see "Ethnic and race categories in the United States").

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