Does your family have a history of heart disease? If so, you’ll definitely want to share this information with your primary care provider. However, you might not know the exact things to discuss with them.
Daniel Washko, DO, a cardiologist who practices at Mercy Health – The Heart Institute, Fairfield, was kind enough to break down his thoughts on this topic so you can put your best foot forward when discussing heart disease. Read his thoughts below.
If you have a family history of heart disease, it’s important to know when your family members developed heart disease and give that information to your doctor. If a male family member was younger than 55 years old or a female family member was younger than 65 years old, that’s considered premature heart disease. Premature heart disease can point to a number of conditions that your doctor will want to investigate to determine what impact heart disease may have on you.
You will also want to let your doctor know what kind of heart disease affected your family member. Ischemic heart disease is the most common and that’s when plaque builds up in the arteries, causing them to narrow and restrict blood flow. Give your doctor that family history and ask about any special testing you should have, such as cholesterol panels, echocardiogram, stress testing, coronary CTor genetic testing. Other types of heart disease include inherited rhythm disorders, valvular disease and cardiomyopathies, which cause the heart to struggle with pumping blood.
It’s important to give your doctor as thorough a history as you can. In the case of these other types of heart disease, you will want to ask if your family members should be screened. Knowledge is important and not knowing if you have an inherited problem is a barrier to receiving the care you need. You should also ask if you need a treadmill test, echocardiogram or heart rhythm monitor. These are a good diagnostic tools to detect and pinpoint abnormal heart rhythms. Genetic testing can be a good option here as well. You will also want to ask about medications, devices – such as defibrillators – and procedures – such as ablations – that can be helpful in managing your inherited condition.
No matter what heart issues run in your family, the most important thing you can do is maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you think about heart disease, there’s a saying that goes, “your family history only gives you the gun, but yourlifestyle fires the bullet.” Managing your blood pressure, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, controlling your blood sugar, lowering your cholesterol, keeping active and maintaining a healthy weight will increase your chances of living a healthy and long life.
We live an era of information. Twenty-five years ago, we didn’t have the technology and knowledge that we have now to prevent heart disease and that’s great. If you don’t get the answers you’re looking for and you still have questions, don’t be afraid to ask to see someone else for help.
Learn more heart disease as well as the heart and vascular services we offer at Mercy Health.