You can be fooled into thinking that you don’t have a family history of heart disease!

Do you really know for sure? Would your relatives tell you they had heart disease?

My mother repeatedly told a steady stream of medical professionals, “I have no family history of heart disease,” and, “There is no heart disease in my family,” after she had a quintuple bypass surgery and mitral valve replacement.

There is no way my mother could know with certainty that she has no family history of heart disease.

She bases this on the fact that her own mother lived to 94 and was never diagnosed with heart disease. Her father died at 73 from an endocrine disorder.

We can’t rule out that her mother had heart disease.

We can only rule out that by the time she was 94, if she had heart disease, it had not yet reached the point of coronary attack.

And had her father lived beyond 73, who’s to say he wouldn’t have eventually developed chest pain, shortness of breath and even a massive coronary? He was not autopsied.

For all we know, at the time of his death, his coronary arteries were 90 percent blocked.

Had he lived another several years, who’s to say he would not have ended up in the ER with chest pain, and then next day, had emergent coronary bypass surgery?

My maternal grandparents were never diagnosed with heart disease, but then again, they also never underwent the following modern-day screening and diagnostic tests:

  • echocardiogram
  • catheter angiogram
  • CT angiogram
  • CT calcium score
  • treadmill stress test
  • adenosine perfusion scan (chemical stress test)
  • C reactive protein blood test.

A person, such as my mother, could have very advanced heart disease yet still have a normal-sounding heartbeat under a stethoscope!

A cardiologist gave her a clean bill of health just 10 months prior to the emergent quintuple bypass surgery!

And this clean bill of health was based on a stethoscope exam, pulse-feel, blood pressure reading, an EKG that was impossible to discern due to a “left bundle branch,” height and weight chart, and questions about family history of heart disease!

I’ll assume that my maternal grandparents had routine physical checkups – that were very similar. You can see how heart disease can be missed with such rudimentary testing.

This happens contemporarily as well. People are told they are as fit as a fiddle, after a routine physical, and then shortly after keel over from a cardiac event caused by severe coronary artery blockages.

Both my mother’s parents could have easily had undiagnosed heart disease, even though they didn’t die from it. Many people with undiagnosed heart disease die from unrelated causes.

Pneumonia following hip replacement took my maternal grandmother. There was no autopsy. How do we know she didn’t have 90 percent coronary artery blockage?

I might add that my mother’s sister, about eight months prior to my mother’s coronary bypass surgery, had stents placed in her coronary arteries!

My mother’s sister has heart disease! This is family history! However, my mother didn’t know this (and still doesn’t) because my aunt never told her. I found out through another relative!

If you think you’re safe from coronary heart disease because you believe there’s no family history of it, you may want to revisit your conclusions good and hard.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  



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