Family History and Heart Disease

Family history is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease. By knowing your family history of heart disease and sharing it with your healthcare provider, you can take the right measures to stay healthy and decrease your risk of heart disease as you age.

The most important aspect of your family history of heart disease is finding out if any members of your immediate family — your brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents — have or had heart disease in their lifetime, and how old they were when they developed heart disease. Generations beyond grandparents did not have access to the same medical treatments that we have today, and they lived in a much different environment, so it isn’t as important to find out if they had heart disease. If you have time to do research beyond your immediate family, find out if your extended family — cousins, uncles, aunts — have or had heart disease.

By knowing your family history of heart disease, your healthcare provider can help you make lifestyle changes to decrease your risk of heart disease, such as exercising, decreasing your stress level, adopting a healthy diet, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol. Knowing your family history will also help your healthcare provider administer the proper diagnostic tests, including blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol screenings, and prescribe the appropriate treatment to help you manage your heart disease risk factors.