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Heart disease can be hereditary, but you can work with your doctor to manage your risks.

It’s important to know your family history. Your risk of cardiovascular disease is higher if there's a pattern of heart disease in your family. But what does "a family history of heart disease" really mean? You may be at increased risk if:

  • Your father or brother was diagnosed with heart or vascular disease before age 55, or your mother or sister before age 65.
  • Your parent or sibling has high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
  • Your parent or sibling has had a stroke.
  • Your parent or sibling has had coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), angioplasty or another intervention to treat cardiovascular disease.
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You can’t control your family history, but you can control other risk factors.

According to the American Heart Association®, the more risk factors you have – and the more severe they are – the greater your risk of heart disease. So, while you may not be able to do much about inheriting the risk, you can help manage genetic vulnerabilities by focusing on the risk factors you can control.

Most importantly, if you smoke – quit. You should also try to get regular exercise, whether you dance, swim, or just take a walk (be sure to talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise routine). Eating habits matter too – be sure to fill your plate with colorful, heart-healthy fruits and vegetables. Finally, try to reduce the stress in your life and enjoy yourself more. These steps are a great way to live a heart-healthy lifestyle.


Get help understanding heart attack and stroke risks in under 2 minutes, and get a downloadable guide you can take to the doctor.