Are You Worried About Your Family History For Heart Disease? Here's What You Can Do

If you have close relatives with heart disease, it's a good idea to see a cardiologist even if you have no symptoms. That's because your risk of cardiovascular disease is higher if your parents or siblings have had a heart attack or stroke. Getting a baseline evaluation helps you prevent heart problems and track your heart health. That way you can start treatment, even if it is just lifestyle changes, before your disease is so advanced, you have a heart attack. Here's what you can do to protect yourself when heart disease runs in your family.

Get A Cardiac Evaluation

If you currently have no symptoms, your doctor may monitor your heart health through blood tests, blood pressure readings, and an EKG. However, if you have symptoms, even vague ones, your doctor may refer you to a cardiology clinic for more extensive tests such as a treadmill stress test, or a 24 hour Holter monitor test of your heart rhythm.

These cardiac tests reveal any problems you may have with your heart rhythm, such as a rapid heart rate, slow heart rate, or irregular rhythm. They also show if you have problems with blood flow and oxygenation of your heart tissues.

If your tests indicate you have heart disease, your cardiologist may recommend you take medication or make lifestyle changes to manage your condition and keep it from getting worse.

Watch For Symptoms

Since you know you're more susceptible to heart disease when you have a family history of it, you should be alert for symptoms. People tend to ignore symptoms or put off going to the doctor because sometimes heart attack symptoms seem vague or mild.

Some symptoms you may experience include nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, pressure in your chest, arm, back, or jaw, and sweating. Your symptoms could be mild or severe. If you suspect you could be having a heart attack, call 911 right away.

Improve Your Lifestyle

Although you can't control the fact heart disease runs in your family, you have control over other risk factors. For example, you can quit smoking and lose weight. Eating a healthy diet is important too. Plus, you should get exercise on a daily basis and not sit all day.

If you have other medical problems, such as diabetes, work with your doctor to keep them under control. Having diabetes increases your risk for heart disease too, so it is important to keep your blood glucose within normal limits through the proper diet, exercise, and medications if needed.

Keep in mind, just because you have close family members with heart disease, it doesn't mean you are doomed to develop it too. However, it should be a wake up call for you to get proactive about your heart health, so you can avoid a stroke or heart attack if at all possible.