The worst thing you can do is to accept your family history and genetics as your destiny. You can change the course of your life and prevent heart disease no matter what your family history says.
The team at Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute has helped many patients reclaim their heart health and enjoy active, thriving lives despite a worrisome family history.
Here are four key steps you should take to lower your risk of heart disease.
1. Learn your risk factors
Your parents may have mentioned that heart disease runs in your family, but do you know all the details? When you excavate your family history, you gain the information needed to protect your health.
If you don't already know, explore your family history and learn about the details.
Explore inherited conditions
Does an inherited (genetic) condition run through your family? For example, cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease), familial hypercholesterolemia, and some life-threatening heart arrhythmias are genetic conditions.
Dig into your family’s medical history
Has anyone in your immediate family (mother, father, sister, brother):
- Had a heart attack?
- Had a stroke?
- Been diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat?
- Been diagnosed with high blood pressure?
- Been diagnosed with high cholesterol?
- Had angioplasty, heart bypass, or other procedures?
- Been diagnosed with heart or vascular disease before the age of 55 for men or 65 for women?
For the next step, you need to add your personal risk factors to your family history. Do you have any of the conditions mentioned above? Are you overweight? Do you eat a healthy diet? Do you exercise?
The answers to all these questions determine your overall risk for heart disease, but you still need to do one more thing: Have a thorough heart evaluation and let us screen for cardiovascular disease.
2. Schedule a heart-health screening
Your family history doesn’t tell you what’s actually happening in your body, so the next step is a thorough exam and heart-health screenings.
The purpose of a health screening is to find disease at its earliest possible stage, before you have symptoms and while we still have time to prevent serious disease.
A basic heart screening includes a blood pressure check as well as blood tests to determine your blood sugar and cholesterol levels and look for signs of dangerous inflammation.
After we review your risk factors and screening results, we may go a step further and recommend additional tests to evaluate the health of your heart.
We do several tests in the office that allow us to identify early signs of heart disease and diagnose most heart problems.
You may need any of the following tests:
An EKG is a quick test that shows us your heart's electrical activity, including your heart rate and rhythm.
An echocardiogram uses ultrasound to produce images of the heart’s structures and show the flow of blood through the heart and coronary vessels.
Stress testing reveals how well your heart functions when it's forced to work harder and pump more blood.
3. Change your risk factors
When you have a family history or genetic tendencies, the way you live takes on greater urgency. You may have genes that increase your risk of heart disease, but genetic tendencies are not written in stone. You can change your genetic future by making adjustments in your lifestyle.
Thanks to advances in genetics, we know that cells in your body control gene activity. They don't alter your DNA; they modify your health by turning genes on and off.
You can influence this process and change your genetic fate by purposefully altering your environment to avoid stress and toxins, eating healthy foods, and getting regular exercise. Other lifestyle factors like smoking and drinking alcohol also influence your genes.
4. Follow your heart disease prevention plan
Now that we know all the details about your heart health, we work with you to create a heart disease prevention plan. Our plans are comprehensive.
We give you guidelines for the lifestyle changes you need to make and prescribe medications when needed. We also help you find services in the community that support your health and wellness.
If you have any questions or need help determining your risk for heart disease, call Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute or book an appointment online today.