Do premature heart attacks run in your family?

If so, be extra vigilant about measuring and managing your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Filling out those family history forms at the doctor's office can be tedious. But sometimes, the devil is in those details. Because heart disease is so common, many people check "yes" to the question about whether their father or mother had heart disease. But if your father had a heart attack at age 77, that's likely different than if his heart attack happened when he was only 44.

"If you have any family history of heart disease, that should serve as a keen reminder to pay attention to factors that can raise your risk of a heart attack, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes," says Dr. Howard Sesso, an epidemiologist with the division of preventive medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. But if a parent or sibling had a premature heart attack, that's an even stronger signal to be more proactive in monitoring and lowering your risk, he adds. A premature or early heart attack is one that occurs before age 55 in a man or before age 65 in a woman.

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