Family History of Heart Disease Increases Risk of Cardiac Problems

Family History of Heart Disease Increases Risk of Cardiac Problems

by Simi Paknikar on Jan 18 2018 6:02 PM
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  • Individuals with a positive family history of heart disease in first degree relatives are at a higher risk of suffering from heart disease themselves
  • Cardiovascular disease is influenced by modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors
  • Age, gender and genetic factors are among the non-modifiable risk factors. Similar lifestyles and associated diseases could also play a role
  • Control of modifiable risk factors could reduce the overall risk of heart disease in these individuals.
A positive family history of heart or cardiovascular disease increases the risk of a heart attack or other cardiovascular diseases due to genetic factors as well as common lifestyles of the family.
If your first degree relative (that includes one or both of your parents or a sibling) suffers from a heart disease, you will need to be more careful. This is particularly important if your father or brother suffered from heart disease early before the age of 55 years, or your mother or sister suffered from a heart disease before the age of 65 years.

The risk for heart disease passes down through families through genes. Some conditions like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy Marfan’s syndrome and sudden death associated with prolonged QT interval are caused by single gene defects, whereas the risk for other heart diseases like heart attack and angina is usually controlled by multiple genes. Conditions like hypertension and diabetes that often increase the risk of heart disease are also controlled by multiple genes. The risk is also influenced by the ethnicity of the individual.

Beside genes, common lifestyle factors may also be responsible for the clustering of heart disease cases in a family. For example, an unhealthy diet comprising mainly of junk foods rich in unsaturated fats and high in salt content can put the entire family at risk for heart disease. Behavioral factors in the family like excess alcohol intake and smoking, which are not good for the heart, may influence the youngsters, thus also putting them at a risk for heart disease.

If you have a genetic risk for a heart disease, you cannot change it. You can, however, control several other factors and reduce your risk. Some of the steps that you could take include the following:

  • Follow healthy diet practices with a low fat diet, adequate whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, adequate protein in the form of legumes and if you are a non-vegetarian, fish and poultry. Avoid sweets, unsaturated fats and red meats. Control your salt intake to maintain a normal blood pressure.
  • The importance of regular exercise should not be underestimated. A minimum of 20 to 30 minutes for at least five days a week should be included in your routine.
  • Do not smoke! If you are already a smoker, your risk of heart disease will come down after you quit. Talk to your doctor about methods to help you quit your habit. The intake of birth control pills by women who smoke further increases the risk of heart disease.
  • Control your alcohol intake. Though some may argue that alcohol may be protective for the heart, uncontrolled drinking does not provide any benefit and can be harmful.
  • Get a regular health check done at least annually even if you do not suffer from any symptoms. Make sure that an ECG (electrocardiogram) is a part of the workup. A stress test can also be done, which can detect heart disease before heart symptoms appear.
  • Be aware of symptoms of heart disease which may include chest pain, discomfort or pressure which may spread to the left shoulder and arm, back or the jaw, and difficulty with breathing, dizziness, a fast heart rate or irregular heart rhythm.
  • Control predisposing disease conditions like hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol levels through regular medications.
  • Control your weight. Being overweight increases your risk of heart disease directly as well as by worsening other associated conditions.
  • Control your stress levels. Stress compels individuals to eat excessively, smoke or drink. It also increases blood pressure.
  • Avoid medications that have a known adverse effect on the heart.
  1. Family History and Other Characteristics That Increase Risk for Heart Disease - (