What can at-home genetic tests tell you about heart-related risks?

The results reveal only limited information about your risk for abnormally high cholesterol or harmful blood clots.

About 30 million Americans have used direct-to-consumer genetic tests such as 23andMe and Ancestry. While some are simply curious about their ethnic heritage, many pay extra to learn about their propensity for certain diseases and conditions. But can the results tell you anything useful about your odds of developing heart disease, the nation's leading killer?

When it comes to coronary artery disease — by far the most common form of heart disease — the answer is maybe, says Dr. Pradeep Natarajan, director of preventive cardiology at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. "Genetics are just one aspect of a person's risk. Lifestyle habits such as smoking, diet, and exercise play a bigger role," he says.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »