Heart and Vascular Care
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Caring for your heart can feel overwhelming. With endless information at our fingertips, it can be difficult to know where to start.
But the most important piece of information, says Dr. Nathaniel Dittoe, cardiologist at Kettering Health, is your family’s health history.
What is family health history?
“Family history encompasses medical conditions that family members have been diagnosed with, or have died from,” says Dr. Dittoe.
According to Dr. Dittoe, the age at which first-degree family members, your parents and siblings, first started having medical issues and the age at which they died are important pieces of information for your doctor to know.
Important conditions in your family history for your doctor to know include:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Heart rhythm problems
- High blood pressure
Additionally, Dr. Dittoe says having a family member who passed away without warning could also indicate a possible genetic heart condition.
Knowing Your Heart Risk
Dr. Dittoe says the first step in taking care of your heart is knowing your risk.
“If we know that family members have had heart problems,” he explains, “there are things we can do to try to prevent problems in the future.”
If you know that heart conditions run in your family, see a doctor and have a conversation about your entire family health history. Your doctor will create an action plan and might recommend screenings or medications to lower your risk.
“In some cases, a healthy lifestyle is all that is needed,” Dr. Dittoe says. “In other cases, medications such as those for blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes can help reduce your risk.”
While everyone’s treatment looks different, one thing that’s important is for everyone to understand their family health history.
“There is nothing you can do about the genetic cards you were dealt,” Dr. Dittoe says, “but you can choose how to play them.”