A loved one recently had a heart attack, and now you find yourself wondering about your own heart health. Are you at risk of heart problems yourself? And how can you tell if your heart is healthy?
Having a family member with cardiovascular health issues, like a heart attack or heart disease, can be eye-opening. If it’s your mom or dad, or even a sibling, your mind may jump to whether you could be genetically predisposed to heart problems.
Take a deep breath. Your first step should be to get a full picture of your heart health now, and you can get a pretty good picture by simply having regular checkups and age-appropriate screenings.
Is My Heart Healthy?
An annual checkup with your primary care provider helps keep an eye on your heart health, along with your overall health. During this visit, you will usually have blood work and other tests done that reveal important heart health numbers.
In particular, your provider will look at your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and weight. If you’re at an excess weight or if your blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar are elevated, you’re at an increased risk of heart disease and other health issues.
These numbers are best viewed over time, which is why they’re monitored at your checkup each year. This allows your provider to take them into consideration along with other factors, like your lifestyle habits and your family medical history, to make recommendations about improving your health.
Can You Prevent Genetic Heart Disease?
In many cases, yes. While your genes may increase your risk of certain heart health conditions, you can take steps to lower your overall risk in other ways.
If you have a family history of cardiovascular conditions, make sure your medical provider knows. This information can help guide your care, including recommendations for protecting your personal heart health.
This may include recommendations that you have other heart health screenings in addition to the ones outlined above. It may also include more frequent checkups, preventive medications, or a referral to a cardiologist to carefully monitor your heart health and your risk factors over time.
If you’d like to take extra steps to ensure your heart is in good shape, you can turn to the Center for Cardiovascular Prevention, Metabolism and Lipids at Georgia Heart Institute. We offer non-invasive screenings, such as cardiac calcium scoring, to help you keep an eye on your heart health and also offer counseling for those with a genetic risk of heart disease.
How Can I Keep My Heart Healthy?
Whether you have a family history of heart disease or not, you can take steps to protect and strengthen your heart health. Implementing healthy lifestyle habits can go a long way toward keeping your heart healthy.
Take these steps to protect your heart:
- Move more often.
Staying physically active gives your heart health a big boost. Aim for around 30 minutes of exercise per day, and remember that even simply getting up and moving around during the day is beneficial.
- Fuel your body in a healthy way.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are packed with healthy antioxidants. Supplement those nutritional powerhouses with lean protein sources, like tofu, chicken, or fish, and whole grains. Choose whole foods instead of processed foods when possible to avoid saturated fat, excess sodium, and added sugar.
- Stop smoking.
If you don’t smoke, don’t take up the habit. And if you do smoke, talk with your provider about smoking cessation tools that can help you quit.
- Get plenty of sleep.
Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night to keep the heart healthy and strong. Practice good sleep hygiene and prioritize getting the recommended amount of sleep.
- Work to manage stress.
Americans are now more stressed than ever, and that stress can affect your heart. Find healthy ways to manage your stress, such as exercise, meditation, a hobby, or time with friends.
Want to learn more about how to keep your heart healthy and strong? Connect with our care team at the Center for Cardiovascular Prevention, Metabolism and Lipids at Georgia Heart Institute at (770) 219-0960 to learn more about keeping your heart healthy and preventing heart disease.