Family History and Coronary Heart Disease

The 14 percent of families that have a history of coronary heart disease account for 72 percent of all premature deaths from heart disease. Also, 48 percent of major coronary events such as heart attacks occur in those families. A brother or sister of someone who has a heart attack or other coronary event has twice the normal risk of having such an event. We can go through the closest relatives of coronary disease patients and screen them.

Screening those close relatives and taking steps against risk factors such as high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure could prevent more than 80 percent of the early heart attacks that occur each year. The siblings and children of coronary heart disease patients may be screened for Coronary Heart Diseases, and work to bring those factors under control.

In theory, working physicians are aware of the importance of family history in predicting coronary risk. And they know that they should put that information to use with the close relatives of heart patients.However, the reality is that all of the studies to date show that it just isn’t happening.

People with coronary heart disease often show up in emergency rooms or outpatient clinics. It will be easy to find them as members of a family requiring counseling. In fact, such a system is used for cancers that are known to have an inheritable background. It would be easy to ask a heart patient if any close relatives have such a condition, and to give basic advice when that is the case.

One surprising thing found was that people who had early heart attacks and had a family history of heart disease had very little knowledge of how they were at greater risk. After all other risk factors are taken into account, having a close family member with coronary heart disease increased a person’s risk of a major cardiac event by 45 percent.

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