Family history

A family group of two women and a girl

If you have a family history of cardiovascular disease, you have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack, heart failure and stroke.

You are considered to have a family history of cardiovascular disease if:

If you have family history of cardiovascular disease, make sure you tell your doctor or nurse. They may want to check your blood pressure and cholesterol.

If you are over 40 years of age, you can visit your doctor and ask for a heart health check to find out your risk of getting cardiovascular disease.

How does family history affect me?

Genes can pass on the risk of cardiovascular disease, and they can also be responsible for passing on other conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels.

There's no single gene that increases your risk of getting heart disease. It's likely that several genes are responsible, and our BHF funded scientists are finding more all the time.

Lifestyle habits, such as smoking or poor diet passed on from one generation to the next can also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Can I do anything about my family history?

Unfortunately there is nothing you can do about your family history. Having a family history of cardiovascular disease is sometimes called a 'non-modifiable' risk factor - this means it's a risk factor that you can't change.

However, whilst you can’t change your family's background, you can choose your lifestyle.  So even if you have a family history, you can reduce your risk of getting cardiovascular disease by controlling other risk factors by:

Your risk of developing cardiovascular disease also depends on other things, such as your age. The older you are, the more likely you are to develop cardiovascular disease.

Also, certain ethnic groups have a different level of risk. South Asian people living in the UK are one and a half times more likely to die from coronary heart disease before the age of 75 than the rest of the UK population.

Our online magazine Heart Matters has great information and tips on how to keep your heart healthy. Read other people's stories of living with heart disease and hear what our experts have to say about risk factors like family history, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

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