My Father Had a Heart Attack, Will I have One, Too?

Heart attack Richmond Hill, NYAnyone who has a family history of heart attack, heart failure, coronary artery bypass surgery, or other incidents related to coronary artery disease may have one question: will I have it, too? The question is warranted, and it’s a good one to ask because it provides the opportunity to see how one can override genetics to live a longer, healthier life.

To see how we can do this, scientists observed case histories of more than 55,000 patients involved in some previous studies. Cases were observed from four specific research projects: Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities, Women’s Genome Health Study, Malmo Diet, and Cancer Study, and BioImage Study. Details of the study were published in The New England Journal of Medicine. They included:

  • Classification of patients as low, intermediate, or high risk for coronary artery disease based on genetic mutation.
  • Which lifestyle habits either reduced or increased risk based on classification.
  • Researchers identified four specific choices that patients could make to offset their genetic risk for coronary artery disease. These included:
  • Avoiding tobacco use, especially smoking.
  • Exercising at least one day per week.
  • Consuming a whole-foods diet low in sodium and processed meat and high in fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Maintaining a body mass index of 30 or lower.

When healthy lifestyle habits were maintained, a patient had a notably lower risk of developing heart disease despite genetic predisposition. In particular:

  • Low genetic risk patients experienced a 45% reduction
  • Intermediate risk patients demonstrated a 47% reduction
  • High genetic risk patients reduced their risk by 46%

What You Can Do to Preserve Heart Health

Your genes do not work all on their own. If you have a family history of heart disease and cardiac events, there are steps you can take to offset your genetic makeup. These include:

Exercise Five Days a Week

You don’t have to love exercise to get this done. According to John’s Hopkins Medicine, a healthy heart gets support from just 30 minutes a day, five days a week of brisk walking, jogging, or other activities that get the heart pumping.

Additionally, experts recommend throwing in two or three resistance training workouts per week. These should be performed on consecutive days, and they do not have to be strenuous. A short routine using free-weights or even body weight supports heart health by changing body composition to include more muscle mass and less fat mass.

Prioritize Sleep

Studies show that any amount of sleep deprivation increases the risk of obesity, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart attack. Most of us need at least seven hours of sleep each night. If you rely on coffee to get through the day or you hit snooze several times before you can get out of bed, you are getting clues that you need more quality sleep. If you are sleeping seven to nine hours a day or more and still feel fatigued during the day, speak with your doctor. You may have a sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea that is keeping you from a healthy sleep pattern.

Heart health is our specialty. For more information on screenings and treatments for heart disease, contact us at 516-437-5600.

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