Researchers have found that heart attacks are not as connected to family history and genetics as may have been previously believed.

These new findings may help those with a family history of coronary disease and diagnosed with narrow coronaries realize that heart attacks are not inevitable.

"Because coronary disease and heart attacks are so closely related, researchers in the past have assumed they're the same thing," said Benjamin Horne from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, US.

"They thought that if someone had coronary disease, they would eventually have a heart attack. This finding may help people realise that, through their choices, they have greater control over whether they ultimately have a heart attack," Horne added.

The researchers studied patients with severity of coronary disease who had or had not suffered a heart attack.

The patients were identified by linking 700,000 patients in Intermountain Healthcare's clinical data warehouse with the Intermountain Genealogy Registry, which contains 23 million individuals within extended family pedigrees.

While severe coronary artery disease can be inherited, the presence of heart attacks in people with less severe coronary disease was not clustered in families, the findings showed.

The findings were presented at the 2014 conference of the American Society of Human Genetics in San Diego.

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