Why You Should Learn Your Family’s Heart History

When you go to a first appointment with a new doctor, you’ll typically be asked to fill out a questionnaire about your family’s health history. We might know most of the major illnesses that our family members have had, especially major events they’ve experienced like heart attack or stroke. There are many lesser-known conditions that you might not realize are important to note, as well. For example, if nothing major has come from a family member’s heart disease, you may not even know if a member of your extended family has high cholesterol or hypertension. Doctors seek this information to get a clear picture of both your current, and your future potential health issues. By being aware of problems that have come up in your family’s medical history, they know what best to recommend to you as their patient. Though there are genetic conditions that affect every part of the body, here we’ll focus on some of the heart-related conditions that you can focus on to start. 

Common Hereditary Heart Problems

Heart disease can often be caused by unhealthy lifestyles, and patients will see improvement when they make healthier choices. However, these conditions can sometimes be passed down genetically, and affect us from birth. Managing these heart problems is a lifelong task for anyone who experiences them, and knowing that your family may be prone to them is important in knowing to be alert for their signs and start treatment as early as possible.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

This heart disorder happens when the walls of the heart vessels thicken, either in small parts or overall. This causes irregularities in your heart beat, blood pressure and strain on the heart muscles as it forces it to beat harder than it should. Symptoms vary between chest pain, to mild palpitations, and some people experience no symptoms at all. Even if there are no symptoms currently displayed, this condition could worsen if left untreated.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated Cardiomyopathy is somewhat opposite to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Rather than the muscles of the heart thickening, people with this disorder have vessels in their heart that have thinner walls than average. This results in irregular heart beats, dizziness, fatigue and could cause heart failure as the muscles of the heart weaken. Treatments for this condition could involve medication or surgery, depending on the state of the heart muscles.

Hypercholesterolemia

Hypercholesterolemia is a condition where there is too much “bad” cholesterol, or LDL, building up in your arteries. Though this can be caused by an unhealthy diet, families can also pass down the gene that make you more prone to accumulating this bad cholesterol, regardless of what you eat. Patients with this condition have been known to have heart attacks as early as 20 years old! If you are unaware of having this condition at an early age, you may not know to take necessary precautions to prevent the buildup of cholesterol in your bloodstream. 

Have you checked in with your family recently about any of these conditions that may be somewhere in your family tree? Even if no one currently shows any symptoms of heart disease, it’s important to know what may be possible down the line. If you can, have a conversation with your relatives about heart conditions that they may know of in the family. When you know possible risks of developing these conditions, you know how to keep yourself healthy!