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GPs need training on family history heart risk

GPs need better guidance on how to talk with patients about how family history affects risk of heart disease, a study concludes.

Researchers studied video recordings of GP and nurse consultations about cardiovascular risk and found little explanation was given about how family history impacted on modifiable risk factors, such as smoking and cholesterol.

The 21 patients involved in the qualitative study, published online in Family Practice, had been prompted to think about their family history beforehand by filling out a questionnaire.

Dr Philip Evans, a GP in Exeter and director of the Primary Care Research Network, said patients were interested in how their family history affected their risk, but some GPs skirted round it to avoid being ‘fatalistic'.

He said the study revealed a training need: ‘GPs need to learn a bit more about how family history fits into the various risk factors, so they can interpret it for patients.'

Dr Stewart Findlay, a GP in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, and treasurer of the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society, said many GPs asked about family history when a patient registered but the information needed to be placed in context.

‘You have to explain to the patient that family history is just one of several risk factors, but that they can modify their risk by reducing their cholesterol or stopping smoking,' he said.

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