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When heart disease runs in the family what should one do?

As a family, we share happiness, difficult times and myriad of other aspects of life! However, we also share genes, behavioral and lifestyle traits which are not just restricted to the present generation. Through our ancestors and to our future generations, genetic material is passed between families-so are many diseases that exist among them! We are well aware of families being affected with diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, arthritis etc.

Incidence of heart disease especially, is on the rise, and the alarming fact is that young individuals are now prone to conditions such as high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia and coronary atherosclerosis. These diseases could be attributed to the similar environment we share along with sedentary/ unhealthy lifestyle choices that play a major modifying role in occurrence of heart disease. The risk of acquiring heart disease increases if one or both parents suffer from the condition. We have heard of individuals as young as 30 years of age die of sudden heart attack or showing signs of abnormal heart rhythms, fatigue, fainting episodes etc. While we may not be able to change or control the genetic make-up of an individual to prevent heart disease (or other inherited conditions), we may be able to modify the environmental and lifestyle related factors.

Here’s a gist of what can be done to delay, if not prevent the occurrence of heart diseases:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity is a chief cause of high blood pressure and increased workload on the heart. With increased fat and cholesterol levels, we are choking our blood vessels, which then work under pressure to maintain circulation of blood. By regularly monitoring the kind of foods we eat and our BMI (weight in proportion to height, age and sex), we can enable our body perform its functions efficiently.
  • Eat foods high in anti-oxidants like omega-3 fatty acids, consume adequate quantities of vegetables and fruits, avoid red meat as well as ready-to-eat and preserved foods (they have high salt content).
  • Refrain from smoking and alcohol consumption: they negatively affect your blood vessels.
  • Exercise! There should be no excuses for not incorporating basic activities in daily routine. Walking, any sporting activity, gym, swimming-take your pick. The important aspect is to enjoy the activity and not make it a chore.
  • Maintain a positive attitude

Studies have shown that people who make disciplined lifestyle choices lowered their risk of heart disease, despite the associated genetic component.

Chart out a diet and activity plan for the whole family and stick to it. Make each day more memorable by making the right lifestyle choices and keeping heart disease at bay!

By :Dr Narayan Gadkar, Consultant Cardiologist, Zen Multi speciality Hospital, Chembur

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