Should I Worry About My Family History with Heart Disease?
Is heart disease genetic? Is heart disease hereditary? It is a fact that many heart disorders are genetic and/or are inherited. These heart disorders include the following:
- Coronary artery disease (disease of the small blood vessels that supply oxygen to the heart)
- High blood pressure
- Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms
- Cardiomyopathies (disease of the heart muscle)
- High levels of blood cholesterol and triglycerides
- Congenital heart disorders
Most Common Heart Disorder
The most common heart disorder that runs in families is coronary artery disease. There are at least 19 million Americans with coronary artery disease and countless more who have not yet been diagnosed. It can branch out from there to family members who may also be at higher risk for developing coronary artery disease at some point in their lives.
Congenital Heart Disorder
The majority of congenital heart disorders are diagnosed at or soon after birth and medical history is usually taken to determine if any other family member is also involved. For the rest of the heart disorders related to genetics, medical history is usually only taken when symptoms arise.
People who have a family history of heart disease definitely need to be proactive with their health maintenance. You cannot change your family history or your genes, but you can take steps to reduce your risk of heart disease or even prevent it.
Those who have a history of heart disease need to understand that, in many cases, heart disease can be prevented by making positive changes in their lifestyle and eliminating the risk factors for heart disease.
The Risk Factors
Risk factors for heart disease include the following:
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle with no exercise
- Being overweight
- Having diabetes
- Having untreated high blood pressure
- High levels of cholesterol and triglycerides
- Eating an unhealthy diet (e.g., fast foods and processed foods)
Is heart disease genetic? Is heart disease hereditary? What can you do to prevent the onslaught of heart disease? All the above risk factors can be prevented by doing the following:
- Tell your doctor. If any member of your family has heart disease, get yourself checked out. A regular check-up is recommended at least once a year. If you have any symptoms of heart disease, your doctor will likely tell you that check-ups should be done more frequently.
- Start leading a more active lifestyle. Any activity is better than no activity. If you have never exercised before, start with walking. Other options include swimming, light aerobics, jogging, and cycling. No matter what exercise you undertake, you must continue it on a regular basis to derive the benefits. If you exercise regularly, you can lower your body weight, and this will also result in a decrease in your blood pressure and blood cholesterol.
- Stop smoking. Nicotine is not only bad for the heart but it is also associated with many cancers. Nicotine has no health benefits, and you should take steps to discontinue the habit. While there are many types of smoking aids on the market, stopping “cold turkey” seems to have the highest success rate.
- Take any medications as prescribed. If you are taking medications for high blood pressure or cholesterol, be compliant with them; left untreated, they can be major risk factors for heart disease, stroke, and premature death.
- Manage your diabetes. It is vital that you take steps to control your blood sugars. This may be done by changes in diet, exercise, and/or the use of medications. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you must follow up with a healthcare provider. Untreated blood sugar levels not only increase the risk of heart disease but can lead to devastating life and limb-threatening complications.
- Eat healthily. Start eating a plant-based diet or preferably the Mediterranean diet if you have a family history of heart disease. This diet recommends veggies, fruits, nuts, whole wheat, fish, olive oil, and low-fat dairy. At the same time, avoid saturated fats, high sugar, and red meat. The change in diet should be a lifelong venture and not something temporary. To ensure that the dietary changes are working, you will need to follow up with a healthcare provider who can monitor your blood cholesterol and sugars.
- Limit the intake of alcohol. Even though small amounts of alcohol have been shown to lower cholesterol levels, most people cannot control the amount of alcohol they drink. While some alcohol may lower blood cholesterol, any excess alcohol can also lead to brain and liver damage. The minor benefits of alcohol can easily be obtained with exercise. The best recommendation is to avoid alcohol.
If you are asking yourself, “Is heart disease genetic?” or “Is heart disease hereditary?” and if you have a family history of heart disease, you should consult with your physician. Most likely, you will then be recommended to make an appointment to see a cardiologist (heart specialist).
These professionals can make further recommendations and help lower your risk factors for heart disease. Cano Health has a team of Board Certified Cardiovascular Specialists who can schedule diagnostic tests around the clock. Call them at 1.855.447.6059 to get a check-up for your heart.