Understanding Heart Health Risks Through Family History

The risk of heart disease is linked to several factors, but the one completely out of our control is family history. (WICS)

The old adage goes, you can pick your friends, but you can't pickyour family. In the case of heart health, you can't pick the genes you inheritfrom them either. The risk of heart disease is linked to several factors, butthe one completely out of our control is family history.

"There'sfive risk factors for heart disease: Smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure,high cholesterol, and family history," Dr. Nilesh Goswami said. "Thefamily history, we can't change."

For somepeople, a family history of heart issues is nothing more than a minorinconvenience. For others, maintaining a healthy heart could be the differencebetween life or death.

"Oneof the coaches flipped me over; I was already blue," Jessica Ball said asshe recalled a near death experience from a cardiac arrest. "I wasn'tbreathing, so they started CPR."

Heartissues for the Ball women arrived later in life, and changed their life as theyknew it.

"There'sno onset time for the condition," Jessica said. "She was in her thirties;I was in my twenties."

"Knowingthat you're the one that's the carrier and having two of your children to havethis of the four, it's scary and of course, there's some guilt that fills inthere that you can't help," Doris Ball, Jessica and Julie's mother, said.

Even thoughtheir mom had children, for both Julie and Jessica children aren't an optiondue to their condition.

"Basically,it would have come down to me or the child probably," Julie Altig said."Because of the overworking of the heart."

All threehave internal defibrillators in case of an emergency. Although Jessica was aDivision I athlete, strenuous exercise is out of the question now.

"I cando some cardio, weight lifting, stuff like that," Jessica said. “But, I'mnot the same person athletically that I used to be, unfortunately, because myheart just can't.”

Even ifyour family has a clean bill of health, that doesn't mean you're in the clear.Talking to your doctor about other genetic factors is the only way to know forsure. The most common heart condition inherited through family is, heartdisease.

If yourimmediate family members like your mother, father, or siblings have blockedarteries, particularly women over 65 or men over 55, that puts you at anincreased risk.

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