Having a family history of heart disease, including close relatives who have experienced or died from heart attacks as well as a tendency for your family members to experience high blood pressure and cholesterol, increases your own risk of heart disease. Luckily, it is possible to help counteract your family history by making positive lifestyle changes and being proactive in protecting your cardiac health. Here are four things you should do if you have a family history of heart disease:
Get Regular Physical Exams
Many people wait until something is seriously wrong to see the doctor, but when you have a family history of heart disease you can't afford to be lax in this way. Having an annual check-up at a clinic like Summit View Clinic, and letting your doctor know about your family history, is key to protecting your cardiovascular health. At your check-up, your doctor will check your blood pressure and cholesterol and recommend lifestyle modifications or medication if either numbers are too high.
They will also help you come up with a plan to lose weight or quit smoking if either is an issue for you, since both of these are major factors when it comes to predicting heart disease. By seeing the doctor on a regular basis, you will be able to nip any potential issues in the bud before they become more serious and harder to manage.
Clean Up Your Diet
A diet full of additives, saturated fat, and excessive calories is a surefire way to end up with heart disease, especially when you are already at high risk. Luckily, cleaning up your diet doesn't have to be complicated, and there are simple, doctor-recommended guidelines online.
Focus on avoiding processed foods, sugary and high fat foods, soda, and fast food. Look at this as a challenge to find creative ways to add more nutritious whole foods into your diet. By making a healthier diet a priority, you will not only be protecting your cardiovascular health, but will also lose weight and gain energy.
Get into the Habit of Working Out
Getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week (or 30 minutes, 5 days a week) is key to maintaining your health and protecting your heart. If you don't currently work out, look for physical activity that seems fun and appealing to you. This may mean brisk walking or jogging, Zumba or other group fitness classes, swimming laps at the rec center, or going on hikes.
If you aren't sure where to start, it may be a good idea to hire a qualified personal trainer who can help you establish a new fitness routine. Soon, working out most days of the week will become a habit and you will begin to crave the rush of endorphins you experience after a good workout.
Smoking weakens your blood vessels, making you much more vulnerable to heart disease and shortening your lifespan. Smoking is highly addictive and can be very tough to quit, but luckily there are many resources available to help you quit for good. Some people have good luck with nicotine replacement therapy, often in the form of gum, patches, or medication prescribed to you by your doctor.
You will also need a support system, and some smokers find it is helpful to join an online support group or download an app dedicated to quitting smoking. It may also be helpful to focus on the ways your life and health will improve once you quit smoking.
Your family history of heart disease should be taken seriously, but it doesn't mean you are doomed. By following the tips on this list, you will be taking positive steps to protect your heart as well as your overall health.