If cardiovascular disease runs in your family, here’s some good news. A recent study suggests that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may help you dodge the genetic bullet.

The study, conducted by Ron Do in the Department of Human Genetics at McGill University, along with several other researchers, investigated the association of 9p21 (a chromosomal region that carries mutations associated with cardiovascular disease) risk variants with CVD in people of different ethnicities and tested for an interaction between this factor and environmental factors. While this association has been studied before, it has mostly been in European populations. This is the first study to look at people of different ethnicities.

The study compared people who had had an acute non-fatal heart attack with similar people without heart disease. The study found that the genetic mutations increased the risk of heart attack by about a fifth. However, the effect of the mutations on heart attack risk was influenced by “prudent” eating habits—a diet that includes fresh fruit and vegetable intake as recorded in food frequency questionnaires. That is, the risk of MI in people carrying genetic mutations predisposing them to heart disease was influenced by their diet. The strongest interaction was seen with a mutation called rs2383206. Although carriers of the mutation who ate a diet low in fruits and vegetables had a higher risk of having a heart attack than people with a similar diet who did not carry this mutation, carriers and non-carriers who ate a fruit- and vegetable-rich diet had a comparable risk of having a heart attack.