When heart disease or stroke runs in a family, it's important to talk about it with children and other close family members. The conversation may be hard, but the payoff—better health for all—can be huge, according to the September 2013 Harvard Heart Letter.
"Knowing your family history is one of most powerful tools we have to guide how we take care of ourselves from a health perspective," says Dr. Paula A. Johnson, professor of cardiology at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Division of Women's Health at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "This is a chance for your children to make changes that will have both immediate and long-term payoffs."
Having a family history of heart disease isn't trivial. In a study of more than 122,000 Utah families, 14% had a history of heart disease. But members of those families made up 72% of people who had early heart disease, 48% of people with heart disease at any age, and 86% of people who had strokes before age 75.
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