How does my family history affect my health?

All health outcomes are a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental exposure to other disease factors. Some diseases are more strongly linked to genetics such as family history, but other health conditions are not significantly linked to genetic family predispositions. Ultimately, exposure or environmental factors such as smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise can be mitigated. However, genetic predisposition cannot be changed. If you have significant genetic predisposition, we are more wary or more vigilant to prevent disease.

What can I do to improve my heart health?

You can improve your hearth health by maintaining a heart-healthy diet, getting regular moderate exercise and by having an age-appropriate, preventive medical evaluation for risk factors, with treatment or change of risk factors as needed.

What signs and symptoms should I look for?

Most of the time, heart problems are signified by symptoms of chest discomfort (such as chest pain left side), shortness of breath, fainting or leg swelling. Other symptoms to look out for are heart palpitations, fatigue and inability to exercise.

What should my health plan be for the future?

Coordination with your doctor or cardiologist can help formulate a specific health plan for you. General advice for health includes regular exercise and the right diet.

Should I take any special precautions, as a woman?

Heart disease causes as much mortality and morbidity in women as it does in men. However, women do not often have the classic signs and symptoms as described in the literature. For example, heart attack symptoms in women are different from signs of a heart attack in men. Women must be very vigilant because certain symptoms are not as easy to detect. They don’t have the “classic” symptoms such as chest pain. Any inability to conduct previously normal activity or any discomfort in the chest area should be viewed with some suspicion.

Am I at risk for heart attack?

Your risk for heart attack is a combination unique to your age, family history, current lifestyle and other risk factors for heart disease. A cardiologist can work with you to evaluate your specific risk and explain the signs of a heart attack.

Am I at risk for stroke?

Your risk for stroke is dependent upon several factors. A cardiologist doctor can evaluate you for certain cardiac conditions such as atrial fibrillation that would increase your risk for stroke. Other conditions that increase your risk for stroke are smoking and hypertension. Your doctor will educate you about stroke symptoms, including signs of a stroke in women.

Am I at risk for sudden cardiac death?

Certain cardiovascular conditions place people who have them at increased risk for sudden cardiac death. Some of the conditions that place people at risk for sudden cardiac death are inherited conditions. Luckily, these are not very common. Sometimes a weak heart due to prior heart attack or other cardiac conditions may increase a patient’s risk for sudden cardiac death. An evaluation by a cardiologist can determine if you have a condition such as a weak heart that might predispose you sudden cardiac death. There is often an increased risk for sudden cardiac death. A cardiologist or electrophysiologist can administer certain treatment such as a defibrillator, if indicated, to decrease this risk.

Ganiyu Oshodi, MD FAQ

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