Congestive heart failure may be caused by conditions that pass in a family from generation to generation. Healthy lifestyle habits and getting medical treatment can help minimize the risk of heart failure.

Approximately 6.2 million adults have heart failure in the United States. With so many people having the condition, it’s likely you know or are related to someone with congestive heart failure, which may lead you to wonder if it can pass genetically.

You may indeed have a higher likelihood of congestive heart failure if others in your family have this condition. Other conditions such as diabetes and coronary artery disease that can also run in families may increase your chance of congestive heart failure.

Because of this, it’s important to have a heart healthy lifestyle and let your doctor know your full family health history.

(If you’re interested in learning more about heart failure generally, make sure to look here, too.)

Congestive heart failure means that your heart isn’t pumping enough blood to meet your body’s needs. It can have serious consequences, including:

  • kidney damage
  • liver damage
  • elevated pressure in the blood vessels that supply your lungs
  • breathing difficulties (blood and other fluids may also back up into your lungs)
  • heart valve disease
  • sudden cardiac arrest or death

Congestive heart failure can be due to a variety of different underlying conditions. Many of these have genetic components that can be passed down through families.

An example of a health condition that can lead to heart failure is hypertension. Hypertension requires your heart to work harder to push blood through narrower blood vessels, which can cause your heart to become injured and less effective over time. Genes can play a role in increasing an individual’s chances of developing hypertension.

Genetic risk within your family

When a family history of hypertension is combined with lifestyle factors such as smoking and an unhealthy diet, the risk of developing this condition is even higher.

Congestive heart failure can also be due to genetic heart conditions. An example of a heart condition that can be passed down through families and cause congestive heart failure is familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This condition involves the thickening of the heart muscle wall, which makes it more difficult for your heart to function correctly.

To determine if an individual may develop a hereditary form of heart failure, doctors will look at a complete family health history, paying special attention to any members who had heart failure or heart-related conditions. They may also suggest genetic testing.

Other cardiomyopathies can also be genetic and require genetic testing. These may include dilated cardiomyopathy, restrictive cardiomyopathy, and arrhythmogenicright ventricular cardiomyopathy.

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Individuals may be at a higher risk of heart failure if they:

  • are 65 years or older
  • have a family history of congestive heart failure or related conditions
  • smoke cigarettes or use illegal drugs
  • have a sedentary lifestyle
  • eat an unhealthy diet
  • are African American
  • experience sleep apnea
  • have other heart, lung, and blood conditions (including long-term health conditions such as chronic kidney disease or anemia)
  • undergo cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation

It’s possible to inherit traits from either a mother or a father that place you more at risk for congestive heart failure. It’s also possible to have congestive heart failure even if you don’t inherit related conditions from either parent.

If you’re showing symptoms of congestive heart failure, you’ll want to talk with a doctor. They can do further testing to help determine any underlying causes and whether those causes are genetic or not.

You can read more here about symptoms of congestive heart failure.

Individuals of any age can experience congestive heart failure, but older individuals are more likely to develop it. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, people 65 and older in particular are at an increased risk of heart failure.

Genetic testing is available for a variety of inherited cardiovascular diseases that are associated with congestive heart failure. If you have a family history of one of these conditions, a doctor may suggest genetic testing.

Genetic testing can be useful in determining whether extra monitoring is needed. It can also ensure that some conditions that contribute to heart failure are treated promptly.

Individuals are more likely to have congestive heart failure when they have certain health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Some of these conditions have a genetic link and can be passed down in families.

If you have a family history of congestive heart failure or other diseases linked to heart failure, it’s important to notify a doctor and make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk.