Family history and heart diseases are strongly linked to each other. A person with a family history of heart diseases is more likely to develop heart problems and complications than a person without a family history of heart diseases. However, it is not the sole factor that can contribute towards heart disease in a person; it is also accompanied with several other risks.
A family history of heart disease implies that one or more of the blood relatives had or has heart disease. More the number of family members with heart diseases, higher the risk of a person developing heart complications. Moreover, closer the relation of the family members to a person and younger the age, higher is the risk of developing heart problems. Younger age in this perspective is a man under the age of 55 years and a woman under the age of 65 years. Along with family history, other risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, etc. increase the chances of a person contracting heart disease, as well as other complications such as genetic cholesterol abnormality, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
Family history and heart diseases are co-related because of genetics. Genetics impact the cardiovascular system in multiple ways and influence many cardiac risk factors including lipid levels, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and more. However, genetics do not act alone and are triggered by multiple lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, weight, pollution and exposure to harmful radiation, pesticides, etc.
That said, it is possible to overcome the risk of family history and heart diseases provided some important preventive steps are followed:
Know the full family history: A comprehensive family history assessment is critical to know what puts you at higher risk and also what kind of heart problems are likely to be passed on. An extended evaluation of family will span across three generations, including children, siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces/nephews and grandparents. It is important to know the current and past health status of these generations, their cardiovascular problems, and at what age did they experience the problem.
Get tested and consultation early: Once you have the thorough family history, it is important to consult a doctor and discuss the tests required to eliminate or know risks and potential threats. Some tests and exams that can be conducted include – lipid profile, lipoprotein, C-reactive protein, coronary calcium exam, ECG, ultrasound, etc. These tests help to evaluate the overall functioning and structure of the heart, including arterial build-up. Moreover, genetic testing can be used to identify genetic issues, which can be treated early on.
Preventive approach: Based on the family history and the results of the test, the doctor will suggest targeted treatment and preventive measures to minimize the risk of developing heart diseases; such as in case a patient has premature accumulation of fat in the coronary arteries, the doctor might suggest statin therapy, even if the other values are normal. Moreover, this also helps to eliminate the risk of aggressive problems that need to be tackled in their early stages to reduce complications.
Consider other risk factors: While evaluating the family history and the probability of heart problems, it is critical to consider the risk factors on both sides. The family history of diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, pre-diabetes, obesity, etc. must be evaluated since these factors also increase the chances of heart problems. Moreover, factors such as physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and increasing age raise chances of heart diseases.
That said, even though with all this, you cannot fight your genes, but you can alter their developing environment and lower your risk by modifying behaviours that increase chances of heart disease. Moreover, having a family history with heart diseases does not necessarily imply that the person will develop a heart problem. However, it increases the chances of occurrence, but health can be managed provided certain preventive steps are taken. These steps include – regular testing, targeted medical therapies along with preventive lifestyle measures – such as physical activeness, healthy diet, healthy weight, etc. – are very useful in reducing the risk of a person developing heart disease due to family history.