Half of adults never speak to their loved ones about their family medical history

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British Heart foundation-care industry news
Figures released as BHF urges everyone to Wear It Beat It for life saving research

Millions of UK adults are shying away from potentially life saving conversations with their loved ones about health conditions that run in the family, according to new statistics released ahead of the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) Wear It Beat It campaign to get the nation wearing red to fight heart disease on Friday 5th February.

Having a family history of cardiovascular disease can put you at increased risk of life-threatening conditions such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, heart failure and stroke.

Eight out of ten people (80%) say they would want to know if heart disease ran in their family. (1)

Yet new statistics released by the BHF show nearly half of UK adults (49%) have never discussed their family medical history with their loved ones, even though almost two fifths of us (37%) worry that a relative could develop a condition that runs in their family.

Two fifths of adults (41%) polled knew someone in their family who has a heart condition or has died from cardiovascular disease. Yet well over half (55%) of those couldn’t name what that condition is or what it means.

Six out of ten (60%) had never spoken with their relatives to find out if they too were at risk of developing the same condition.

One of the main reasons people said they are reluctant to discuss their family medical history was not wanting to pry into people’s private life (18%). Yet 60% claim talking with their loved ones would inspire them to make positive lifestyle changes to protect against heart disease.

The BHF is calling on people to put themselves in the picture about their family history of cardiovascular disease, and join the nation to Wear it. Beat it. on Friday 5th February.  By wearing red and holding your own fundraising event you can help power life saving research to revolutionise the way we prevent and treat cardiovascular disease which blights so many families.

Since 2009 the campaign has raised over £6million towards new cardiovascular science. Last year more than an incredible 23,000 people took part in Wear it. Beat it. and the BHF is calling for even more of you to get involved this year to help raise £1million for life saving research.

Sign up online at www.bhf.org.uk/red or call 0300 330 0645 and get your free fundraising pack full of fun ideas about how to get involved.

Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said: “These statistics show that too few of us are having important conversations with our relatives about our inherited risk of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease can strike without warning, but by knowing if you’re predisposed to these devastating conditions you can help protect yourself against it.

“As a GP it is vital I know the details of any family history of disease when making an assessment and diagnosis with one of my patients.

“Although you can’t change your family history, you can change your lifestyle and reduce your risk of heart disease.  Help us find new ways to fight cardiovascular disease by signing up to Wear it. Beat it. and you will help fund cutting-edge research to better understand, treat and predict who is at risk.”

Gail Sullivan, 65, from Oxted in Surrey, lost her son Daniel to a heart attack after he collapsed in 2013. He was just 43.

Gail said: “It’s been devastating for the family to lose Daniel so young. You hear about other people losing their children which is absolutely terrible, but you never think it will happen to you. Now we’re the other people and it’s still such a shock that he’s not here.

“We’ve suffered a lot of loss in the family, much of it due to heart disease. Still we didn’t really speak about it, and when it came to it we didn’t spot the signs that Daniel was at risk. If we had – if Daniel had – he might still be here. That’s why it’s so important for families to sit down and talk about their risk of heart disease.”

BHF researchers such as Professor Sir Nilesh Samani are pioneering innovative research to identify the genetic markers hidden in family trees which could put people at increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Professor Samani initiated the British Heart Foundation Family Heart Study – the largest study of its kind – to unravel how genetics can predispose some people to heart disease.

By taking part in Wear it. Beat it. and organising your own fundraising event you can help fund new discoveries in the fight for every heartbeat.

BHF Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Chair of Cardiology at Leicester University, said: “Identifying the faulty genes which increase our risk of cardiovascular disease is imperative if we are to help stop these conditions devastating future generations. We’ve already identified 50 genetic changes which contribute to a raised risk of coronary heart disease and heart attack.

“The findings will pave the way for new ways of treating and preventing this disease whose consequences are often devastating not only for the individual but the family. By taking part in Wear it. Beat it. and fundraising for the BHF you can help us find better ways to prevent and accurately predict those at risk.”

For more information and to get your free fundraising pack visit www.bhf.org.uk/red or call 0300 3300645.

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