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Family Link to Heart Attack

Do your parents have a history of heart disease? What about your brothers or sisters? Studies have shown that having a parent with cardiovascular disease (CVD)—such as heart disease or stroke—doubles your risk of developing CVD. One study confirms that having a brother or sister with CVD also raises your risk in middle age.

FamilyThe Younger CVD Occurs, the Higher the Risk for Siblings

Researchers examined more than 2,400 women and men over an eight-year period. All the subjects were age 30 or older. During the study period, the researchers documented any CVD event—such as angina, heart attack, and stroke—that occurred among subjects. They found that having a sibling with CVD significantly raised a subject’s risk of having CVD. Overall, a person’s risk of heart attack, stroke, or other CVD events may be as much as 45 percent higher if his or her brother or sister suffers from CVD.

Work Together on Healthy Changes
But here’s the good news: A family that shares genes also can try to share a commitment to health. To lower your—and your family’s—risk of CVD, try issuing some fun but healthy challenges:

  • Make a goal to learn how to prepare food in heart-healthy, tasty ways. If you’re used to frying, commit to grilling, broiling, sautéing, or poaching.
  • Form a partnership with your doctor. If a parent or sibling has been diagnosed with CVD, be sure to tell your doctor. Your doctor may recommend that you take prescription medicine or aspirin to lower your risk.
  • Commit to adding heart-healthy foods to your diet. You might start with whole-grain barley. Research shows that adding fiber-rich barley to your diet may help lower cholesterol levels.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead of calling it quits when you fall off your healthy resolutions, pick yourself up and try again.

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Feeling Well: Heart Health