Family History of Heart Disease

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Family History of Heart Disease

Topic Overview

People with one or more close relatives who have or had early coronary artery disease (CAD) are at an increased risk of developing CAD for several reasons. A tendency to develop certain risk factors, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, may be related to specific inherited genes. Genes are passed on from parent to child and are like the blueprints of the body: They are a code that determines how our bodies are made and how they function.

Inherited lipid disorders can contribute to atherosclerosis and may lead to early CAD. Although family-related behaviours also contribute to the risk of developing CAD, researchers are still working to understand exactly why CAD runs in families.

Behaviour or genetics?

In addition to inherited factors, there is probably a large environmental component to the increased risk seen in some families. People who smoke expose their family members to second-hand smoke, increasing the risk of heart disease in their family members. Children of parents who smoke are more likely to smoke than children of non-smokers. Dietary habits may also play a role. Families who eat fatty diets are more likely to develop CAD than those who eat more balanced diets.

Addressing each of these family-related behaviours may greatly reduce your chance of developing CAD.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer John A. McPherson, MD, FACC, FSCAI - Cardiology
Last Revised August 23, 2010

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