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Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Matters of the Heart: The Link Between Family History and Cardiovascular Disease

Posted By: Advancing Care

If heart disease runs in your family, both genetics and shared lifestyles may put you at increased risk. In fact, research shows that siblings of cardiovascular disease patients have roughly a 40% risk increase, while children of people with premature cardiovascular disease have a 60 percent to 75 percent increased risk.

“Recognizing this link empowers individuals to take proactive steps, such as undergoing targeted screenings and making informed lifestyle choices,” explains Waseem Chaudhry, MD, a cardiologist at WMCHealth’s MidHudson Regional Hospital.

family heart history

What You Need to Know

Knowledge is power, and understanding your family's cardiovascular history equips you with the tools to take control of your heart health. So don’t be shy — be proactive in discussing family history with your loved ones and healthcare providers.

Gather information about your extended family’s heart disease, related conditions/procedures, including their age when diagnosed or treated.

Additionally, record the age and cause of death for those who have passed away. "This comprehensive understanding allows healthcare professionals to tailor preventive strategies and screenings based on individual risk profiles," Dr. Chaudhry advises.

Tests for People with a Family History

  • Genetic testing: Assessing specific genetic markers associated with heart disease can provide valuable information about one's inherent risk and can guide healthcare professionals in developing personalized prevention plans.
  • Cholesterol panels: Monitoring cholesterol levels is critical. Elevated cholesterol levels can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, a leading cause of heart-related issues.
  • Blood pressure monitoring: Regular blood pressure checks are essential for everyone. Maintaining optimal blood pressure levels reduces strain on the heart and lowers the risk of cardiovascular issues.
  • Cardiac imaging: Advanced imaging techniques, such as CT scans or MRIs, can provide a detailed view of the heart's structure and function and can help identify any anomalies or signs of heart disease before symptoms manifest. Cardiac calcium scoring, for example, can help people with a family history of cardiovascular conditions determine their current heart health status and assess their risk of future cardiac events.
Waseem Chaudhry, MD
Waseem Chaudhry, MD

Empowering Your Heart Health Journey

“In addition to regular screenings and tests, adopting heart-healthy lifestyle habits can significantly mitigate the impact of genetic predispositions,” says Dr. Chaudhry. This includes maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, managing stress and avoiding tobacco use. Remember, the choices you make today can influence not only your well-being but also the health of generations to come.

WMCHealth’s Cardiovascular Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Program (CHPDP) is designed to help patients — especially those with a family history of heart disease — manage their cardiovascular health through diet, lifestyle changes and other interventions. We provide comprehensive physical examinations and follow-ups; screenings for hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and other conditions; a full review of lifestyle modifications and, where appropriate, medication initiation; and smoking cessation therapy.

To make your heart health a priority, request an appointment through WMCHealth’s Heart and Vascular Institute or call 866.962.4327 to learn more about CHPDP or visit Cardiac Care.