Improving assessment of cardiovascular disease risk by using family history: An integrative literature review

Mariam Kashani, Arn Eliasson, Marina Vernalis, Linda Costa, Mary Terhaar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND:: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one killer in the United States. Although the causes of CVD are multifactorial, including genetic and environmental influences, it is largely a preventable disease. The cornerstone of CVD prevention is accuracy in risk prediction to identify patients who will benefit from interventions aimed at reducing risk. Nurse practitioners commonly perform CVD risk assessments and are well positioned to impact preventive therapy. Cardiovascular disease risk scoring systems currently in use substantially underestimate risk in large part because these do not include family history of premature CVD as a high-risk factor. PURPOSE:: We sought to examine the state of evidence for the use of family history as a predictor in CVD risk stratification. CONCLUSIONS:: A comprehensive literature search using the Medical Subject Headings terms of family history of CVD, family history of premature CVD, risk assessment, and risk estimation displayed 416 articles; a review of the titles and subsequent evaluation of the articles eliminated 392 references, leaving 24 for review. By incorporating family history in risk assessment, categorization of CVD risk improves substantially. The evidence demonstrates that family history is an independent contributor to risk appraisal and unequivocally supports its incorporation to improve accuracy in global CVD risk estimation. CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS:: Underestimation of CVD risk leaves patients and providers misinformed, promoting the ongoing epidemic of chronic disease. Translating this evidence into practice by establishing a clinical algorithm that incorporates family history into risk prediction will standardize CVD risk assessment, improve the identification of high-risk patients, and provide the indicated aggressive care to prevent CVD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E18-E27
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Nursing
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013


  • cardiovascular disease
  • family history
  • nurse practitioners
  • primary prevention
  • risk assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing

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