Question: Are there conditions present at birth that could affect my risk of heart failure later in life?
Answer: As we learn more and more about heart disease, we're beginning to expand our sphere of what constitutes risk beyond just lifestyle issues like obesity, physical inactivity or smoking. And even beyond the usual things that we've always embraced like high blood pressure and diabetes, we're beginning to understand that there are genetic underpinnings for heart disease including heart failure that there can be familial tendencies towards developing important heart disease.
Now again, we have to take this all in stride. We don't know all of the precise genetic markers. We don't know what kind of screening we should do and in whom we should do it. But we do know this: family history is very important. If there's a family history of heart disease, try to understand who has been impacted and how. And go beyond just the first order relatives, not just brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, but go to cousins and second cousins. Go to grandparents and go to their siblings and try to construct a portfolio if you will of who in the family has had heart disease.
That's the important first step. If the familial tendency is present, then we can be much more careful and thoughtful about assessing a person's risk. But importantly, we have to acknowledge that one of the big risk factors for developing heart disease including heart failure, might be how you showed up in life. You're genetic profile could matter in this regard.