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If someone in your family has been diagnosed with heart disease, or if you yourself have a heart problem, you might be wondering what this means for the rest of the family.

1. What Counts as Family History?

Doctors often ask about your family history as part of cardiac care, but that doesn’t mean that they are interested in every cold caught by your distant cousin. What matters most is the medical history of your parents, brothers and sisters, particularly if they were affected at a young age. This means before the age of 55 if they are a man, or 65 if they are a woman.

2. Other Risk Factors Still Matter

Your family history is only one factor in your risk of developing heart disease. Many people who have a family history of heart disease never develop a problem themselves, while others who have no history of heart disease in the family end up developing it themselves. Some of the other factors that influence your risk of heart disease include your weight, diet, whether you smoke, and how much exercise you do. While you can’t do anything about who you are related to, these lifestyle factors are all under your control. Managing these risk factors is important for everyone, but you should be particularly careful if you are already at higher risk due to your family history. Your doctor will also advise you to try to tackle these factors if you are in need of cardiac care as they can help keep your condition under control.

3. Screening Can Help

Knowing that you are at a higher risk of heart disease due to a family history or other risk factors can be worrying, but talking to your doctor can help. Your doctor can check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, or conduct a range of cardiac screening tests to give you a clearer picture of your risk. Regular screening will ensure any problems are detected early so that you get the cardiac care you need. It can also put your mind at ease by giving you a more accurate assessment of your risk.

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