Definition & Overview

Heart issues, such as heart diseases, are some of the top causes of death in the world. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), ischemic heart disease was the number one cause of death worldwide in 2012. The 2nd and 3rd causes, which are stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are also in some way related to a heart problem.

Many factors can contribute singularly or collectively to the formation of a heart problem. Some are modifiable (meaning a person can control the risk factors), while others are non-modifiable, such as genetics, also referred to as a family history.

People with a family history of heart issues have an increased risk of developing one of the many heart diseases. Unfortunately, nothing can be done to minimize such a risk factor. However, this does not necessarily mean that they will automatically develop a heart condition.

In most cases, having a family history of heart diseases only make a person more prone to developing the condition if the risk factor is also combined with other risk factors, such as smoking and an unhealthy lifestyle.

Therefore, those who are at risk of a heart disease due to genetic factors should also be aware of the other contributory factors to reduce the risk of developing the condition.

Cause of Condition

Although heart diseases have long been suspected of being linked to genetic factors, it is only recently that researchers have identified six variants of genes that are responsible for the condition. However, it needs to be mentioned that the research was limited in terms of the number and race of the participants.

Further studies need to be performed to confirm the results of the research or to find other gene variants that increase the risks of developing heart diseases.

Age also plays a major role in developing a heart disease. Studies have shown that males with a family history of heart disease usually experience a heart attack themselves after the age of 55 while females experience it after 65.

The chances of developing a heart disease also increase if first-degree relatives also have the condition, but this risk further increases if the relative developed the disease at a young age.

Key Symptoms

Having a family history of heart issues does not necessarily mean that a person will develop the said medical condition. In fact, even if the individuals carry the gene variant responsible for the development of heart disease, there is a good chance that they will not develop any of the symptoms if they have a healthy lifestyle.

Who to See and Types of Treatment Available

People with a family history of heart issues can reduce the risk of developing cardiac conditions by living a health lifestyle. Below are preventive measures that can minimize the risk of developing a cardiovascular disease:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Avoid cigarettes or tobacco products
  • Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep everyday
  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Undergo annual medical-up
  • Manage cholesterol level and blood pressure (many heart diseases develop due to the presence of these conditions)
  • Maintain healthy weight and body shape
  • For patients diagnosed with diabetes, it is crucial to keep it in check
    Those who have a family history of heart issues are encouraged to seek regular check-up with their family doctor who can run diagnostic tests to check the health of their heart. If initial assessments suggest the presence of cardiovascular conditions, the patient will be referred to a heart specialist (cardiologist) for further assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.

Reference:

  • Centres for Disease Control: "Heart Disease and Family History."
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