Understanding How Your Family History Affects Your Risk For Heart Attacks

Heart attacks when the blood supply that carries oxygen to the heart muscle becomes reduced or completely blocked, causing pain, weakness, nausea and even death. A number of risk factors are involved in the likelihood of having a heart attack, including age, family history, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Family history cannot be changed, but you can help to reduce its impact on your heart health.
Understanding How Your Family History Affects Your Risk For Heart Attacks
How Family History Affect Heart Attack Risk

Physicians ask questions about family history because it can often tell them about physical characteristics that are passed down through genes. It may be a weakness in blood vessels or a tendency to have high cholesterol levels. It can also indicate other conditions that contribute to heart disease such as high blood pressure, stroke or diabetes. These tendencies can be taken into account when the physician is recommending lifestyle changes or medications that can prevent heart problems.

How Much Family History Is Necessary?

When the physician asks about family history, he or she is generally asking only about first-degree relatives such as father, mother, siblings or grandparents. Relatives further back in history were likely to be living in very different conditions that today which would cause a difference in risk for disease.

Groups That Have Increased Risk
Some racial groups have an increased risk of heart disease. African-Americans have an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. Those of Latin background may have an increased risk of high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Native Americans and Alaskan Natives also have a higher risk of heart disease. These groups can also be at higher risk of developing diabetes, which can also increase the risk of heart attack.

What Type of Family Information Is Needed?
You can help your physician understand the factors that affect your health by telling him about the kinds of diseases your close family members have had. It can also be helpful for your doctor to know the age when they were diagnosed with the illness. He can then monitor you closely to ensure that there are no signs of these problems when you reach a similar age. If your regular physical exams or tests begin to indicate the development of a health problem, he can then intervene to minimize the impact of the condition and prevent a serious condition from developing.

What You Can Do To Minimize Your Risk
If you have a family history of hearts attacks, you should be especially vigilant about eating a healthy diet, maintaining a normal weight, exercising regularly and getting periodic physical exams. Your physician can advise you on the best ways to minimize your risk of heart disease. He can help you to effectively manage health problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes to reduce your risk of heart attack. Be aware that some medications that are now commonly used can increase your risk of having a heart attack. Pradaxa, a drug used for patients who have atrial fibrillation is one of these medications. Discuss Pradaxa heart attack risks with your physician before taking this medication.

Authored By: Renee Simmons. Renee is a journalist/blogger who contributes health information across different websites and organizations.