Skip to content

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

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 for CAD. For men, early CAD is being diagnosed before age 55. For women, early CAD is being diagnosed before 65.1

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.

Recommended Related to Heart Disease

Diagnosing Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is sneaky. It's a process that starts early in life and progresses silently. By the time symptoms occur, atherosclerosis is advanced and represents a serious problem. There are tests for diagnosing atherosclerosis, but none of them are perfect. Some of them even have some risk of harm. So testing isn't as simple as you might think. If you're concerned about atherosclerosis, what should you do? What can you expect at the doctor's office if you ask about an atherosclerosis diagnosis?...

Read the Diagnosing Atherosclerosis article > >

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

Behavior 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 secondhand smoke, increasing the risk of heart disease in their family members. Children of parents who smoke are more likely to smoke than children of nonsmokers. 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 behaviors may greatly reduce your chance of developing CAD.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: June 20, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    Next Article:

    Family History of Heart Disease Topics

    Today on WebMD

    x-ray of human heart
    A visual guide.
    atrial fibrillation
    Symptoms and causes.
    heart rate graph
    10 things to never do.
    heart rate
    Get the facts.
    empty football helmet
    red wine
    eating blueberries
    Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
    Inside A Heart Attack
    Omega 3 Sources
    Salt Shockers
    lowering blood pressure