Family history -- a significant way to improve cardiovascular disease risk assessment

February 22, 2012, University of Nottingham

A new study by researchers at The University of Nottingham has proved that assessing family medical history is a significant tool in helping GPs spot patients at high risk of heart disease and its widespread use could save lives.

Previous research has suggested that family history can be an indicator of a patient's risk of heart disease but at present family medical details are not systematically collected and used by GPs in cardiovascular risk assessment.

This first-ever into systematically collecting family history as part of assessment has identified a further five per cent of patients who would benefit from prevention measures. The researchers from the University's Division of Primary Care also found that the gathering of family is simple, low-cost and acceptable to patients.

Leading the study, Professor Nadeem Qureshi said: "Recently there has been great interest in performing genetic tests to identify individuals at high risk of heart disease, but our study has found that simply taking a detailed family history may be as effective, if not more, to identify these individuals. We are thrilled our research has been published in the prestigious international journal, which has highlighted the study in its Editorial, agreeing that it is time to take systematic family history collection more seriously."

The large was carried out in 24 doctors' practices in the East Midlands and South West England over a six month period. The practices were organised into 12 pairs of one control and one intervention practice each. 748 patients aged 30 to 65 with no previously diagnosed cardiovascular risk were studied.

In all patients the medical staff calculated a standard cardiovascular by inputting core risk factors like age, sex, smoking status, blood pressure and cholesterol into a . GPs usually use this score to predict a patient's 10 year risk for cardiovascular disease. In the intervention groups, clinicians also had patients fill in a questionnaire on family history of coronary heart disease. The patient's standard risk was multiplied by 1.5 if a family history of premature heart disease was identified. This is because a patient is more likely to develop Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) if they have a father or brother younger than 55 years who had CHD or a mother or sister younger than 65 with the disease.

Doctors invited patients identified as having a high risk (20 per cent or more) for developing heart disease in the next 10 years for a consultation. The risk was explained and advice offered on lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise and giving up smoking.

The study found that the additional use of systematic family history in cardiovascular risk assessment almost doubles the proportion of individuals identified at high cardiovascular risk.

The research also concludes that the systematic identification of familial risk for CHD offers a potentially low-cost approach to targeting limited resources for screening and prevention interventions in those at high . The use of a self-completed tool to do this appears acceptable to patients without causing anxiety, and could lead to more CHD being prevented.

Explore further: Low risk? Women and young men responsible for large portion of heart attacks

Related Stories

Low risk? Women and young men responsible for large portion of heart attacks

November 16, 2011
In a contemporary cohort of acute heart attack patients, 70 percent of the patients were unaware they had coronary heart disease (CHD) prior to the event and 60 percent of those patients were women or young men. However, ...

Recommended for you

Researchers borrow from AIDS playbook to tackle rheumatic heart disease

January 22, 2018
Billions of US taxpayer dollars have been invested in Africa over the past 15 years to improve care for millions suffering from the HIV/AIDS epidemic; yet health systems on the continent continue to struggle. What if the ...

A nanoparticle inhalant for treating heart disease

January 18, 2018
A team of researchers from Italy and Germany has developed a nanoparticle inhalant for treating people suffering from heart disease. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes ...

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

'Decorated' stem cells could offer targeted heart repair

January 10, 2018
Although cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for heart attack patients, directing the cells to the site of an injury - and getting them to stay there - remains challenging. In a new pilot study using an animal ...

Two simple tests could help to pinpoint cause of stroke

January 10, 2018
Detecting the cause of the deadliest form of stroke could be improved by a simple blood test added alongside a routine brain scan, research suggests.

Exercise is good for the heart, high blood pressure is bad—researchers find out why

January 10, 2018
When the heart is put under stress during exercise, it is considered healthy. Yet stress due to high blood pressure is bad for the heart. Why? And is this always the case? Researchers of the German Centre for Cardiovascular ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.