Posted on: 4 December 2020
Cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart attack and stroke, are among the leading causes of death and disability among men and women. Although lifestyle and personal variables are important, family history can play a critical role in both the occurrence and severity of CVD. There are several factors in your family history that should raise concerns.
The big three chronic diseases that relate to CVD are diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. In most instances, chronic disease is a matter of poor lifestyle choices, such as carrying extra weight, eating poorly, getting little exercise, and smoking. To a lesser extent, these chronic diseases can occur because of genetic predispositions or other factors, even in people who live a healthy lifestyle. For example, diabetes can be type 1, which means you are born with the condition because your pancreas does not make insulin on its own. Another form of diabetes, sometimes referred to as type 1.5, is autoimmune and may develop later in life if the immune system begins to attack healthy cells of the pancreas. Both hypertension and high cholesterol can also be a matter of predisposition. Some people are diagnosed with hypertension at an early age and high cholesterol can occur without obvious lifestyle contributions.
A history of heart attacks in your family may not always be obvious, especially if you know little about each side of your family. Since many people do not survive their first heart attack, you may want to be concerned about heart disease if there are people in your family that die abruptly, especially at a younger age. The underlying cause of a heart attack can be different, in some instances a heart attack can occur because the heart may not be able to keep up with the demand. In most cases, a heart attack occurs because of underlying conditions, such as atherosclerosis or blood clots that travel to the heart. Atherosclerosis occurs when there are deposits that cause narrowing of the arteries.
Stroke can be more obvious than heart attacks in your family history because most strokes are disabling rather than fatal. There are two types of stroke that may be in your family history: hemorrhagic and ischemic stroke. Hemorrhagic stroke is significantly less common than ischemic stroke. This form of stroke occurs when there is bleeding in the brain, which may be caused by a weakened blood vessel in the brain. Much like heart attacks, a hemorrhagic stroke can cause sudden death. Ischemic stroke occurs when there is a blockage in the blood vessels of the brain. The blockage may have developed in the brain or in some instances, a blood clot may have developed elsewhere and traveled to the brain.
Certain conditions in your family history, whether known or suspected, should raise concerns about CVD. When you have these elevated risk factors, more can be done to monitor your health and testing can be done earlier to either lower the occurrence of CVD or decrease the severity, if it occurs.
If you have these family history conditions, reach out to a local medical health professional for a cardiac risk assessment.Share