It is distressing when our beloved family members suffer from chronic disease.
I have lost many family members to complications from heart disease. Since childhood, I have heard many conversations about how heart disease “runs in the family.” But with heart disease being the leading cause of death in America year after year,  it is a statistical probability that everyone will have multiple family members that die from heart disease.
As I have grown into my career as a health educator and advocate, I question whether my own family history of heart disease is related to inheriting bad genes or learning bad lifestyle choices.
Regarding chronic disease, a lot of people are credited with saying that “genetics load the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger.” Medical research wrestles with this, often saying that both genetics and lifestyle influence disease. When it comes to heart disease specifically, however, the research is overwhelmingly in favor of lifestyle choices as the primary cause, with compelling evidence that eating predominantly whole plants can prevent or reverse this condition.  
Most mainstream healthcare organizations are supporting plant-based nutrition as a key component in preventing and reversing heart disease. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that people who lean toward a plant-based lifestyle are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity. 
The American Heart Association says that eating a plant-based diet at any age may lower cardiovascular risk.
The American College of Cardiology echoes these themes.  
As with most chronic diseases, a strong emphasis on genetics over lifestyle promotes a hopeless mindset when it comes to health.
By empowering yourself to embrace lifestyle choices as medicine, you can take control of your health.  
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., Director of The Cleveland Clinic Heart Program, describes heart disease as “a food-borne illness.”  Dr. Michael Greger, Founder of NutritionFacts.org says, “If that’s all a whole food plant-based diet could do—reverse our number-one killer—shouldn’t that be the default diet until proven otherwise?”  It sounds obvious when you say it out loud.
Vince Tucker is a Mayo Clinic Certified Health and Wellness Coach with an emphasis in Lifestyle Medicine