Family History Pins Down Risky Heart Patients

High risk cardiovascular disease patients better identified through family history

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(RxWiki News) It's no secret that having a family history of cardiovascular disease puts you at a higher risk of developing it. Better collecting family history appears to be key to identifying high risk patients and saving lives.

Researchers found that systematically collecting family history to assess the risk of heart disease offers a low-cost method that can easily help doctors identify high risk patients so that they can be offered early treatment.

"Tell your doctor if you have a family history of heart disease."

It might seem like an obvious and easy step. However, not all doctors collect detailed family history information, and if they do it may not be used to assess the risk of heart disease.

Nadeem Qureshi, leader of the study and a professor from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, noted that recently there has been a surge in interest in genetic testing to identify patients at high risk of heart disease.

He said his research found that taking a detailed family history may be as effective, if not more so, in pinpointing these patients.

During the randomized controlled trial, 748 patients between the ages of 30 and 65 with no previously diagnosed cardiovascular risk were followed. The patients came from 24 different doctor's offices in England over a six month period. Each doctor's office had one control group and one intervention group.

For all patients, doctors calculated a standard 10-year cardiovascular risk score by inputting basic risk factors such as age, gender, smoking status, blood pressure and cholesterol.

Patients in the intervention group were also asked to fill out a questionnaire about family history of coronary artery disease. The standard risk score of patients who indicated a family history of early heart disease was multiplied by 1.5.

Physicians then asked patients at high risk of developing heart disease over the next 10 years to attend a consultation. Doctors explained the risk and encouraged lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise and smoking cessation.

Researchers found that taking a detailed family history nearly doubles the number of patients identified as high risk, with an added 5 percent of individuals deemed high risk.

In addition, investigators noted that patients found the screening acceptable, and that it could help prevent instances of coronary artery disease.

The study was recently published in journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Last Updated:
February 23, 2012