Diet, exercise, rest and smart lifestyle choices all work together in helping you maintain a healthy heart and vascular system. It is no surprise that decreasing salt in the diet and eating healthier food reduces the probability of high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Likewise, eliminating smoking and other bad habits helps, as does exercise.
Age, weight and the amount of physical activity can all be looked at as indicators of how likely someone is to develop vascular problems. Additionally, there is no doubt that a family health history that includes heart disease, high blood pressure or stroke influences the probability of cardiovascular issues in an individual. The American Heart Association’s (AHA) Heart and Stroke Encyclopedia defines heredity as the passing of a genetic quality or trait from parent to offspring. Researchers agree that heart disease is hereditary and it can be shown that an individual with a relative such as a parent or grandparent whose health has been effected by it should do logical things to avoid it. An aunt, uncle or sibling’s health is a good barometer about whether someone may be conducive to heart attack or stroke.
An indicator, not a guarantee
The recognition of heredity regarding cardiovascular issues doesn’t mean that everyone with someone who has suffered from those issues in their families will also face them. However, it is a useful predictive indicator. Statistics that apply to men and women show that heart attacks top the list of causes of death in Americans and strokes rank fifth.
In looking at correlations between relatives’ health and heart issue probability, the age that the family member first suffered an incident is taken into consideration, as well as ethnicity. The occurrence of strokes and heart attacks among African-Americans is disproportionately high. Hispanics are also at a greater risk. Thirty percent of Hispanics will experience high blood pressure and high cholesterol is also common among fifty percent of that population.
Knowledge is power
Knowing if your relatives have been susceptible to cardiovascular issues can help them, as well as you. The American Heart Association recognizes the hereditary correlation of heart disease. It has created a Family Health Tree and recommends reviewing it with other family members. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a similar tool called the Family Health Portrait. Listing grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters, the AHA recommends going through the list with a parent or someone else knowledgeable of your immediate family’s health. The results could even show a trend that could be valuable in looking at your probability of heart disease. It will also show other family members this useful information.
How to determine family health history
You cannot change your family history but you can use what you know about it to help your chances of staying healthy. Take the initiative to learn what you can about relatives who have suffered cardiovascular incidents and the age at which they occurred. Don’t be shy about asking parents, aunts, uncles and other family members if they can share health information with you. If high cholesterol, hypertension, stroke or heart attacks appear in your family history, you need to know about it.
The templates available for the AHA’s Family Health Tree (www.heart.org) and the CDC’s Family Health Portrait (www.cdc.gov) offer a good roadmap to start a journey through your family’s medical history.
Share what you learn
Tell your doctor what you have learned about your family’s health history. That information, coupled with your current health numbers, will help your physician to develop a game plan that will be best for you. Lifestyle changes, an update of your dietary choices, and more exercise may be enough. In some cases, medication may be prescribed. But many factors can help control existing conditions or prevent some from occurring, even if they have occurred in the lives of other family members.
To learn more about prevention programs for heart attacks, stroke or high blood pressure, log on to vascularhealthclinics.org.