Concerned about how heart disease in your family might affect you? Here’s what you need to know
It is widely known that heart disease has a hereditary component - but does that mean you are destined to have heart disease just because your parents or grandparents did? Is there anything you can do to change the odds that you'll receive the same diagnosis? Here's what you need to know!
Heart disease tends to "run in families"
When family members pass traits or predispositions to the next generations, this is referred to as a "hereditary" component. Many chronic conditions, including high blood pressure and heart disease, have a genetic hereditary component. But there is often more behind why these conditions tend to run in families.
Another big factor contributes to why multiple members of the same family might all face heart or vascular disease - and that's lifestyle. That's because people who are close family members are likely to make similar lifestyle choices in areas like diet, tobacco use, and exercise. It turns out that these lifestyle choices may have an even greater influence on the likelihood that you'll develop heart disease than genetic predisposition alone, says Reid Health Heart and Vascular Center specialist Dr. Jeff Haist.
"Fortunately, these factors - diet, tobacco use, and activity level - are all within your control," he says, "and by making positive strides in these areas, you can lower the risk of developing heart disease. Even if it runs in your family."
You can change the odds of developing heart disease, even if you are predisposed to it
Just because someone in your family has cardiovascular disease doesn't mean you are certain to get it. While your risk of developing the disease might be higher than that of someone with no family history of cardiovascular disease, you can still take steps to lower your overall risk.
The American Heart Association lists seven things you can do to lower your risk for heart disease:
1. Manage your blood pressure: healthy blood pressure can reduce strain on your heart
2. Keep your cholesterol in a healthy range: Healthy cholesterol levels help keep your arteries and veins free from blockages
3. Reduce your blood sugar: Consistently elevated blood sugar levels can damage your heart
4. Be more physically active: Even simple exercises like walking can strengthen your heart muscles and improve your quality of life
5. Eat a healthy diet: A diet with balanced portions of things like fats and salts can help your body ward off heart conditions
6. Lose weight: When your body weight is in the normal range for your height, sex, and age, you minimize the excess work your heart does to keep all systems running
7. Stop smoking: Smoking significantly increases your chances of developing heart disease
Whether you are trying to ward off heart disease or if you have already been diagnosed with it, making small steps in these seven areas will help your heart and whole body be healthier.
Working with the right healthcare team can help minimize your risk
Another important step in warding off a genetic predisposition to heart disease is working with your doctor. After talking about your concerns, you can work together to develop a plan that monitors your heart health and lowers your risk of developing heart disease.