There are scores of physical attributes and behavioral dispositions that run in families, alongside many health conditions, and not all of them are good. From minor issues like bunions to far more serious ones like heart disease, your family can influence your health in different ways.

Considering that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, it’s understandable that you want to learn more about your risks, and whether your family’s heart health history will be your own.

To explore this connection, the team here at South Shore Cardiovascular Associates presents the following information about heart disease and family history.

A matter of genes

There are several ways in which your family’s history of heart disease can influence your own and we want to touch on some direct links first — genetics. 

Families can pass along certain genes that predispose you for a wide range of health conditions, heart disease among them. There’s no one heart disease gene, but several that, alone or in combination, can raise your risks for heart disease.

As examples, let’s look at three different issues that are inheritable:

1. Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH)

With FH, your levels of low-density lipoproteins are higher than they should be — more than 190 mg/dL, which places you at far greater risk for serious issues like heart attack and stroke at a younger age. This condition affects about 1 in 250 people, so it’s not all that uncommon.

2. Familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)

This is a condition in which there’s thickening in your heart muscle, which forces your heart to work harder to pump blood through. HCM can also lead to arrhythmias.

3. Familial dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)

A condition in which the heart muscle is weak and thin, which can lead to heart failure.

A matter of environment

While the genetic link is a direct one, just as important is the indirect link to your family — how you were raised. For example, were you raised on a healthy diet or one that favored junk food? Was exercise a part of your family’s activities? Are your family smokers? These familial influences are incredibly strong and inform a lot of your future health.

Addressing your risks for heart disease

While family history certainly has a place on the list of risk factors for heart disease, the four biggest ones include:

  • Smoking
  • Having obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Unhealthy diet

In fact, most heart disease is preventable, even if you have a family history of it, if you lead a healthy lifestyle in which you don’t smoke, eat healthy foods, and get enough exercise.

For a more comprehensive and targeted assessment of your unique risks for heart disease, as well as a customized heart-healthy plan moving forward, we invite you to book an appointment online or over the phone with South Shore Cardiovascular Associates today. We have offices in Brandon, Riverview, Tampa, and Sun City Center, Florida.

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