Do you have knowledge of your family’s heart health history?


Do you have knowledge of your family’s heart health history?

There are some tests that can measure heart risk factors that aren’t a part of standard care. Knowing whether you could benefit from them starts with assessing your family history of heart health. You can do that by using free online tools. For example, Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center has a family health risk calculator that measures hereditary risk. You just enter your information, and it will suggest things like speaking with your doctor or a genetic counselor.

There are a few tests professionals could suggest, depending on your family health risk assessment results. One is a blood test to check for high levels of lipoprotein(a), a form of bad cholesterol that increases the risk for heart attack and stroke. It’s mostly inherited but can also impact people with a personal history of heart disease. Dr. Wesley Milks, a cardiologist with Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, explained that Lp(a) is determined more by genetics than lifestyle and is not effectively modified by statin therapy, commonly used to lower bad cholesterol.

There is only one FDA-approved treatment for lowering Lp(a), which involves a machine removing cholesterol from the blood, similar to dialysis. Clinical trials are also testing less complicated methods. Another test doctors may recommend for people with genetic heart disease risk factors is a coronary calcium scan, a CT scan for the heart that can detect calcium levels and help identify coronary artery disease at its earliest stages. This test is typically recommended for people over 40 years old as coronary artery calcification is rare before then.

Dr. Milks suggests starting coronary calcium scans at age 40, particularly for those aged 50 or older with a family history or an estimated 10-year risk of cardiovascular disease between 7.5% and 20%. It is important to note that both tests mentioned in this story are generally not covered by insurance. An Lp(a) test can cost between $40 and $600, while a coronary calcium scan can cost between $100 and $400. Despite the costs, these tests can be life-saving and provide valuable information for preventing heart-related issues.

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