In India, Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) have now become the leading cause of death.
What’s even more heart-chilling is the fact that Asian Indians get heart disease 5–10 years earlier than other ethnicities. This grim picture may be due to a plethora of lifestyle choices and changes like increase in sedentary habits, stress, consumption of fat-laden, salty food and smoking. These are modifiable risk factors that can be controlled. However, there are some non-modifiable risks factors which cannot be controlled like family history, sex, age.
Even if you take all the precautions to keep your heart healthy and pumping there are certain risk factors that cannot be controlled like family history.
How to confirm a family history of cardiovascular disease? Well, take a glance at all your relatives: Your mom, your dad, your grandparents, your siblings and find out if they have had a heart attack or a stroke ever. Learning this may help you decipher if the risk of heart disease has been passed on to you.
But, even though “genes” are the main culprit,
other things shared by families may also raise your risk. For instance, if anyone
in your family is a smoker and you have emulated the habit; you may have
escalated your risks. Another example is that if your family has been
desk-bound and couch-comfy for generations, it is likely that you have followed their footsteps and are sedentary too, thereby increasing your risks. Food habit is another thing that is handed down from generation to generation which can raise your risks if you come from a family of binge eaters.
Unfortunately, there is no way to change the genetic make-up that you have been given as a legacy. However, there are some key heart disease prevention steps you can take to reduce your risk. Because as the saying goes, “Genes load the gun but, in the end, the environment pulls the trigger”. The environment may include diet, physical activity, stress and health conditions.
Make healthy choices like regular exercise, salt-free and fat-free diet, quit smoking, stress control and watch the kilos. You should also go for regular assessments of other heart risk factors like blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes and keep them under control with the help of medications.
So, does that mean that if someone’s grandpa suffered from a heart attack at age 50, he will too? Not necessarily. A family history of heart disease is an important risk factor, but its effect can be neutralized with lifestyle changes and heart-smart choices.
- Circulation. 2016 Apr 19;133(16):1605-20.
- Ann Transl Med. 2018 Jan; 6(1):12.
- Circulation. 2012 Jun 26; 125(25): 3092–3098.