your father or mother has heart disease, that doesn't mean you
will automatically develop it, too. It's true that you are more
likely to get it than someone who does not have a family history
of heart disease, but you can take steps to try to prevent it.
In a majority of people with a family heart
disease history, we can identify at least one problem they can
do something about.
DETERMINING YOUR RISK
How do you know if you have a family history
of coronary heart disease? If a grandfather, father or brother
began having symptoms of heart disease-angina or heart
attack-before age 45, or a grandmother, mother or sister had
symptoms before age 55, you have a family history that
contributes to your risk.
It that describes you, it's not a heart
attack death sentence. In fact, a family history of heart
disease is only one of the risk factors, according to the
American Heart Association (AHA). Some risk factors can be
changed; others, like family history, cannot.
What family heart history does is identify
people who need to be more attentive to their risk factors in
IT’S NOT YOUR GENS
Family history, gender and age are all risk
factors that can’t be modify. Men typically die of heart disease
at a younger age than women. About 4 out of 5 people who die of
heart disease are 65 or older, the AHA says.
And some people inherit a gene that causes
the liver to create too much blood cholesterol, a fat-like
substance that can clog coronary arteries.
But even though you can't change your genes,
you can identify what it is about them that puts you at high
risk. And then you can be empowered to do something about it.
Lifestyle can be "inherited" just as much as
genetic code. People may actually get heart disease from their
family, but not because of genetic factors.
It's often because their' mothers and fathers
taught them how to eat the foods they eat and how to have the
stress they have.
Whether your family's heart history comes
from genes or your family’s habits, the strategy for prevention
is a heart-healthy lifestyle. The AHA recommends that people get
screened for their risk of heart disease beginning at age 20.
Screening includes measuring blood pressure, body mass index,
waist circumference and pulse every 2 years. Cholesterol levels
and blood sugar should be measured at least every 5 years.
Here are some changes
you can make to help prevent heart disease:
Keep your total blood cholesterol level low. If total
cholesterol level decreases, your chance of having progressive
heart disease goes down.
The AHA recommends that your total blood
cholesterol count be below 200 milligrams per deciliter.
Reduce fats and
dietary cholesterol. If you do not
have heart disease, the AHA recommends that your dally diet
contain less than 10 percent saturated fat and less than 300
milligrams of cholesterol. If you have heart disease, saturated
fat should make up less than 7 percent of your daily diet; you
should consume less than 200 milligrams of cholesterol each day.
Maintain a healthy
weight. People who are overweight
or obese are more likely to develop heart disease, the AHA says,
even if they have no other risk factors.
Excess weight makes the heart work harder. It
raises blood pressure and levels of blood cholesterol and
Smoking promotes heart disease by damaging
arteries, reducing the level of HDL ("good") cholesterol in the
body and perhaps encouraging blood clots in constricted coronary
arteries. Nicotine, says the AHA, also temporarily increases
your blood pressure and heart rate. Also, try to avoid exposure
to second hand smoke.
Experts recommend 30 minutes of moderate
exercise on most days of the week. Exercise raises the level of
good cholesterol and helps reduce the excess weight that can
raise total cholesterol levels.
Get treatment for
hypertension or diabetes. Each of
these can further the progression of heart disease, notes the
AHA, but both can be controlled by a combination of diet and
Ask your doctor about
taking aspirin. It inhibits blood
clotting and helps retard the progression of heart disease, the
Limit alcohol intake.
Too much alcohol can raise blood
pressure and help boost triglyceride levels, the AHA says.
Moderate amounts of alcohol may lower the risk for heart
disease, but experts don't recommend that non-drinkers start
drinking. A moderate amount of alcohol is no more than two
drinks a day for men, and one a day for women. One drink is 12
ounces of beer, 4 to 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
Reduce your stress.
Hostility, isolation and anxiety
can contribute to heart disease. As stress busters, he
recommends exercise, finding more leisure time and relaxation