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Family History and Heart Disease

Close to 1,000 people will die of heart disease today.

Knowing your family’s health history just might help you avoid the No. 1, and the No.5, causes of death in the United States.

More than 600,000 Americans die annually of heart disease, about 25 percent of deaths.

And most could be prevented, even if you have a family history of heart disease.

Your risk for heart disease and stroke, two of the top five causes of death in America, is strongly linked to your family’s health history. If there is a history of heart disease or a stroke in your family, you’re more likely to have the same complications.

But there’s no guarantee, and your lifestyle can play a critical role in reducing your risk.

What’s Important to Know about Your Family History and Heart Disease?

While you may not have an entire history, be aware of your brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents’ history with heart disease or a stroke. Find out how old they were when the diseases developed as well.

This basic, but important, information can help shed light on your own potential risk for heart disease and stroke.

What Can You Do if You Have a Family History of Heart Disease?

Understanding your family history gives you a glimpse of the genetics you’ve been dealt with, but you can also look at the environment your family had surrounding it. No matter what you do, you won’t be able to change your genetics, but you can take action to change your environment.

Changing your environment means changing your behavior by lowering your risk for heart disease and a stroke. Basically, the more prone your genetics are to developing these diseases, the more important it is for you to live a good, healthy lifestyle.

If you take your history to your doctor, your doctor will be able to help you develop a plan to live a healthier lifestyle. Patients will be encouraged to eat a more balanced diet, get regular physical activity and eliminate other risk factors including smoking if necessary.

What if Your Family Has No History of Heart Disease?

Even in families without a history of heart disease, it’s important to be aware of other genetic factors that can increase your risk for heart disease. Other factors including race play a role in an individual’s potential risk for heart disease.

African-Americans face a higher risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke while statistics indicate Hispanics have a 1 in 3 chance of having high blood pressure and a 50 percent chance of developing high blood cholesterol.

Steps You Can take to Reduce Your Risk

It’s true that just because your family has a history of heart disease doesn’t mean you’ll automatically suffer with the same disease, but it does mean your chances of developing the same disease are higher.

Regardless of your family history, heart disease remains a preventable disease for the most part.

Begin taking control of your heart’s health by making the right lifestyle changes necessary to reduce your risk. The American Heart Association recommends making 7 small steps to decrease your risk of heart disease.

Manage Your Blood Pressure – Having high blood pressure puts you at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level reduces the strain on your heart, arteries and kidneys to help keep you healthier longer.

Control Your Cholesterol – As cholesterol increases, plaque develops and can clog the arteries. Keeping your cholesterol low reduces the chances of plaque building up and clogging your arteries.

Reduce Your Blood Sugar Levels – Most food we eat gets converted to glucose the body uses for energy. High levels of blood sugar can cause havoc on your health and lead to kidney damage while harming your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves.

Get Active – Living an active life helps you live a healthy life. Daily physical activity increases the length and quality of your life.

Eat Healthier – Eating a healthier diet is one of the best ways to fight cardiovascular disease. Eating healthy helps you feel better and stay healthier while helping reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Lose Weight – Shedding extra weight reduces the amount of work you put your heart and other organs through. Losing weight is also connected to reducing your blood pressure and bad cholesterol.

Stop Smoking – It is clear cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you do currently smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health.

To get started, pick just one or two to focus on to improve your health and prevent heart disease and a stroke.

Make it a habit to protect your heart and you can work toward preventing heart disease and a stroke even if it’s in your genetics.

Resources

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Family-History-and-Heart-Disease-Stroke_UCM_442849_Article.jsp#.ViaVyRCrTUI

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/My-Life-Check—Lifes-Simple-7_UCM_471453_Article.jsp#.Viab4RCrTUI

http://www.cdc.gov/genomics/resources/diseases/heart.htm

http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/heart-health-and-your-family-history