Researchers from HeartAge have found many people are unwilling to make lifestyle changes despite knowing about their family history of heart disease. Though many participants who had a family history of heart disease were aware of their own blood pressure and cholesterol, this knowledge did not translate into them trying to lower their own CVD risk. The researchers believe this stems from a belief that they will get CVD regardless or because they don’t believe it is preventable through behaviour change.
Researchers used data from 188,139 users of HeartAge.me, a free online tool that engages people presenting their personal CVD risk factors as their estimated ‘heart age’, to test the hypothesis that those who have a family history of CVD are more likely to attend medical examinations and blood pressure checks and be motivated to adopt healthy diet and lifestyle habits.
38.5% of users reported a family history of CVD in at least one parent, with 7% reporting a family history of CVD in two parents. Those who reported that a parent had suffered with CVD were more likely to know their blood pressure and cholesterol values than those without a family history of CVD, suggesting that they were more likely to get tested regularly.
However, this awareness of risk factors did not translate into lower CVD risk or healthier behaviours. Those who reported a family history of CVD had higher heart ages (5.8 years older than real age) than those who did not report family history (4.4 years older than real age). 25% of those who did not report family history of CVD scored ‘poor’ on a diet and lifestyle index, compared to 32% of users with family history of CVD in two parents.
This post is based on an article in Medical News Today.
Mark Cobain et al. (2014) Family History is not associated by itself with better lifestyle choices: The HeartAge experience, poster presentation at European Society of Cardiology Congress, 31 August 2014
Angel A Lopez-Gonzalez et al. (2014) Effectiveness of the Heart Age tool for improving modifiable cardiovascular risk factors in a Southern European population: a randomized trial, European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, published online ahead of print
Mariska Dotch et al. (2014) Modeling the potential impact of diet & lifestyle changes on a CVD risk communication tool: HeartAge, presented at European Society of Cardiology Congress, 30 August 2014