Here’s an interesting fact: If 50% of your family has heart disease before age 50, you are at a 50% higher risk of having heart disease.
Heart disease is broad and includes many conditions such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. There are several factors that can increase your risk for these conditions. Some of them – like diet, exercise and stress – can be controlled. But others, such as family history, cannot.
Your familial risk for heart disease depends on who in your family has had it. First degree relatives – such as your parents and siblings – are the most important. Grandparents are also a significant connection. Family members who are less closely connected – such as second or third cousins – are less significant.
It’s also important to consider when family members were diagnosed with heart disease. If they were younger than 55-years-old, it is significant. We even put weight on it if they were younger than age 60.
Unlike some conditions, such as breast cancer, there isn’t genetic testing that can help determine your risk for heart disease. The best way to learn more about your familial risk is to talk with your family members. Here are seven questions to get started:
- Has anyone ever died suddenly – especially at a younger age?
- Has anyone ever had a heart attack? If so, how old were they?
- Has anyone ever had a stroke? If so, how old were they?
- Does anyone in the family have high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
- Does diabetes run in the family?
- Has anyone had surgery for heart valve disease?
- Do any family members have peripheral arterial disease, aneurysms or blocked carotid arteries?
Keep in mind that you may need to ask the questions a few different ways to make sure the person you are asking understands the information you are looking for and that you understand their response.
Another way to learn more about your risk for heart disease is to get a Heart Scan – a CT of the heart. This simple, non-invasive screening tool takes just 15 minutes to complete. It can detect early build-up of calcium in the coronary arteries, which is the most common cause of heart disease. Edward-Elmhurst Health offers two Heart Scan options:
- $75 Heart CT Scan Package – Comes with a Heart Scan along with cholesterol, glucose and BMI screenings and a blood pressure check – all in one appointment. After your screening, a cardiac nurse will provide a personal, one-on-one consultation to review your risk factors, discuss your preliminary results and answer your questions.
- $49 Heart CT Scan-only – This option only includes a Heart Scan. Your results will be sent to your primary care provider for follow up and next steps, if appropriate.
Both options are available at several convenient locations and appointments can be made online.
The most important thing for beating heart disease is awareness and being proactive, rather than reactive. When we can catch heart disease during its earliest stages, we have more options for managing and treating the condition – and potentially stopping its progression.
To learn more about heart and vascular care and treatment at Edward-Elmhurst Health, visit us online or call 630-527-6363.