When it comes to familial heart conditions, often it is the case that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. Being aware of an appropriate diagnosis (if present), and then implementing the appropriate treatment can be life-saving.
After all, it’s better to be prepared and proactive about your health than take a ‘wait and see’ approach.
So, where to start?
Is it really a “Family History”?
If you are approaching the age where other members of the family have had heart attacks, then it’s no surprise you may be starting to wonder if you will be struck with the same affliction. I see many patients who report a family history of “Bad Hearts”. They will report that “Great Uncle So and So” had a heart attack at 85 years of age and just dropped dead in the garden, to everyone’s surprise.
Strictly speaking, this is a history of heart attack in the family, but it is not the “Family History” that we are asking about as doctors.
What we really mean by family history is if there has been premature (occurring at a young age compared to average) heart problems or death in the family from the heart. When we say premature, we are most concerned to find out if men less than about 50 to 55 years of age or women less than 60 to 65 years of age have been affected.
If there truly are “young” relatives in the family who have had heart problems then we, as doctors looking after you, need some detail around the actual circumstances.