Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death worldwide.  Globally more people die annually from cardiovascular disease than from any other cause.  Nearly one out of three deaths in Singapore is due to heart attack or stroke.  Coronary artery disease is by far the most common type of heart disease.  It is due to the deposition of cholesterol plaques in the arteries supplying the heart which gradually builds up and narrows the arteries, eventually leading to a restriction of blood flow to the muscles of the heart.  People with coronary heart disease may suffer one or more episodes of heart attack.


There are many factors that can contribute to the risk of developing coronary artery disease. This can be broadly classified as :

  • Modifiable (lifestyle associated) risk factors and
  • Non-modifiable risk factors


The modifiable risk factors include lifestyle risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, smoking, unhealthy diet and stress. The non-modifiable risk factors are age, gender, family history which are not controllable.  However, your genes may also play a significant part in your risk of developing a heart attack.  It is found that your genes can contribute up to 60% of your risk for coronary heart disease.

Your genes are inherited from both your parents.  They form the blueprint which codes for how the various organs and body function.  There are many genes that can predispose a person from coronary artery disease and heart attack.


How do you know you have genes that are related to coronary artery disease and heart attack?

There are some clues that may predispose you to inheritance of genes for coronary heart disease and heart attack.  The easiest is to review your family history and to see whether there is a history of premature heart attack in the family defined as a first degree relative having suffered a heart attack at the age of below 55 years old (in males) and below 65 (in females).  However there are still many people who do not have family history of premature coronary artery disease and who appears to be physically fit but yet may suffer a heart attack.   Here is where genetic testing may be useful.


Why is it important to know your risk of coronary heart disease?

It has been shown through years of research and epidemiological studies that cholesterol deposition in your coronary arteries developed at a very early stage of life (as early as childhood and adolescence).  There are conditions that predispose your arteries to develop cholesterol deposition at early age and genetic testing can define if you do possess this risk.  Knowing your heart risk and your risk of heart attack early will allow you to prevent this by applying and modifying your risk factors including improving your lifestyle to prevent coronary heart disease.

Genetic testing is one way to further personalise your risk assessment for coronary heart disease.  However not everybody requires this test to be done and therefore a consult with your physician will be useful.


Heart Sense – your personalised risk assessment for coronary heart disease

Heart Sense is genetic screening program developed by researches in the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore through more than 20 years of research on thousands of human subjects.  It estimates your risk of coronary heart disease by using the common panel of genes and combining them with the usual traditional risk factors to offer a more accurate assessment of your risk of heart attack.  Heart Sense is developed based on Asian population and hence performs much more accurately compared to some of the genetic screening programs offered in other countries especially USA and Europe.   Through genotyping one is able to check whether you have risk genes for heart attack.  The estimated risk of developing a heart attack is highly personalised.

Heart Sense generate a risk chart and provide a full personalised report and interpretation based on your risk factors after combining your genetic and lifestyle risk factors.  With this chart your doctor will be able to better advise you on how you can manage your risk, your lifestyle changes and medical treatment to prevent you from getting a heart attack.


What is required for genetic testing of risk for heart attack?

  • You will be seen by a cardiologist who will go through a cardiovascular screening history and examination.
  • A small volume of blood will be taken from you. DNA will be extracted from the specimen for testing and the result will be available to you within seven working days. At the same time, the blood drawn will also be used to analyse your lipid profile.


The cost of the Heart Sense Genetic Testing will include 2 visits to a cardiologist, Heart Sense genetic test and a lipid profile.