Your health family tree: Questions you should ask your relatives about heart conditions

CINCINNATI - Many people know that heart conditions within their family can put them at a greater risk for their own heart problems. But how much do genetics really play into your heart health?

WCPO Digital spoke with Mercy Heath - The Heart Institute cardiologist Dr. Daniel Eckert to explore the relationship between family and heart problems.

"Patients should have an in-depth knowledge, at bare minimum, of their immediate family's medical problems," Dr. Eckert said. "The main thing is, you want to identify what a patient risk profile is."

Dr. Eckert pointed out that family history is always an important source of information.

"If [you] are well versed in details of [your] family (mom, dad, brother, sister), and their history of heart disease, specifically the age of which they were diagnosed with the condition, you will be better off," Dr. Eckert said.

Dr. Eckert said people should ask relatives about conditions relating to cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure. Age is also a major factor.

"The age of onset of those genetic [heart] conditions is nice to know because we can start to predict when patients are going to start having problems with the condition as well," Dr. Eckert said. "We see patients in their early twenties that have some congenital risk and we are managing those patients aggressively from a very early age to prevent mortality later."

Investigating your genes

With increasing access to DNA testing, consumers can learn more about their genetic risk for heart disease and a variety of other health conditions. The website 23andme.com  offers a DNA kit for $99. Consumers order the kit and send it back for analysis.

Dr. Eckert said people who are genetically at risk for heart problems need to be diligent about managing risk factors with diet and exercise.

"There is no age that you should start screening or managing your risk factors," Dr. Eckert said. "It's never too early to start preventative care."

 

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