Each year, more than 655,000 Americans die of some type of heart disease. But despite that number, many people don’t know the facts about heart health.
There are many different risk factors for heart disease. Knowing your own risk factors is an important first step toward preventing heart disease. One key part of understanding your risk is talking with your family about your family medical history.
The Connection Between Family History and Heart Health
If there’s a history of heart disease in your family, your personal risk of developing heart disease is higher.
That’s because many of the other risk factors for heart-related conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, can also run in the family.
What can you do to lower your risk? Knowing your family medical history is a good first step. Talk with your extended family about the medical conditions they’ve faced and keep a good record of the information you receive.
In particular, ask questions about whether they have heart disease, diabetes or problems with their blood pressure or cholesterol.
Share this information with your medical providers, who can then use those details, along with information about your personal risk factors and lifestyle habits, to make recommendations related to your health. Such recommendations may include when and how often to be screened, along with treatment options that can help you lower your risk level.
Other Steps You Can Take as a Family to Improve Heart Health
While your family medical history is an important piece of heart health puzzle, there are other risk factors that you can tackle together.
Being overweight or obese, eating an unhealthy diet and not getting enough exercise are all risk factors for heart health issues. These are all factors that can largely be mitigated with lifestyle changes. As a family, you can take steps together to help lower your risk.
Try to eat a balanced diet filled with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and a small amount of healthy fat. Limit the amount of added sugar, saturated fat and sodium in the foods your family eats.
Most adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, which breaks down into a little over 20 minutes per day. Being active as a family, such as by taking an after-dinner walk or a weekend hike, can help you get the exercise you need while enjoying time together.