Family History in Heart Disease

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Do you have a member of the family (blood relative) with a history of heart disease? Then it is likely that you are at a higher risk of developing heart disease.

In the recent years, there has been a great deal of interest expressed in the ‘common’ risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol levels. However, family history of heart disease is now considered an important risk factor as well. In fact, a family history of heart disease not only increases the risk of heart attacks, it also increases the chance of developing the risk factors that lead to heart disease as well.

While this might sound a little complicated, let’s simplify things a little.

What is a ‘family history’?

A family history means that a blood relative (father, mother, brother, sister, uncle etc) have suffered from some form of heart disease.

For example, if your mother had heart disease at an early age, you are at a higher risk of developing heart disease. But it is not just a family history of heart disease that is relevant in heart disease. If a blood relative has high blood pressure, that as well can increase the chances of heart disease.

How important is it?

A family history is actually quite important. Individuals who have no risk factors at all other than a family history are still at a higher risk of heart disease.

But that should not concern you too much. Having a family history does not necessarily mean you will definitely develop heart disease. However, if you smoke, have high blood pressure or diabetes, then most certainly your risk will be a lot higher, as will your chances.

Having said that, a strong family history of heart disease is the second most common cause for developing heart disease at a young age in Indians.

What can I do?

Well, there is not much you can do about your family history, but there is a lot you can do to prevent other risk factors from developing. Avoiding smoking is easy. Regular exercise and following a healthy diet is important.

Check out our post on ‘5 simple steps to a healthy heart‘ for more information.


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