It’s February and that means it’s American Heart Month. Before you skip this article, ask yourself – no matter what your age – is there a history of heart disease, high cholesterol or high blood pressure in your family?
Your Family History
If you have a brother or father who was diagnosed with heart disease before age 55 or a sister or mother diagnosed with heart disease prior to the age of 65, you’re considered to have an increased risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. Having a relative die of heart complications before age 60 doubles your own risk of premature heart disease, according to a study in the Journal of American College of Cardiology. And if it’s a parent or sibling, your risk increases 72 percent. If there are two or more premature cardiovascular deaths, your risk increases two-fold compared to just one.
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If you have access to death certificates for ancestors, you may want to see if there are any indications that a disease is “running in your family”. Some diseases that may be associated with genetic risk are cancer, heart disease, dementia, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, mental illness, high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease, alcoholism or substance use, vision or hearing loss, mental retardation, birth defects or infertility.
Finding information on your ancestors’ or living relatives’ health conditions can be a touchy subject for people to talk about, but it may be important to your future health and you should consider making a concerted effort to complete a family health history.