Love Your Heart: Family history and heart disease

Love Your Heart: Know your family history

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - If there's a history of heart disease or stroke in your family, you may be at a higher risk of developing those problems yourself.

On December 7, 2017, Stephen McCoy was having a normal day, visiting with friends.

"I was talking about my dad, (on) December 7th of 1995 had died of a heart attack," McCoy said.

He went back home and was doing chores around the house when he had a massive heart attack.

"Once it happened to me, and I was there on my elbows having a massive heart attack by myself, it's scary," said McCoy.

He says heart problems run in his entire family.

"I have 4 brothers, 3 of us have had heart issues. 2 of us have had open heart surgery, the other one had stents," said McCoy.

Doctors say it's important to know your family history when it comes to heart disease and stroke. That information can paint a picture for doctors to understand what may be happening to you, or what they need to do to prevent anything from happening to you.

"What I look for is I look for is '(does) their family history truly premature heart disease?'" said Dr. Stuart Blum, a cardiologist at Willis-Knighton. "That is, your mom had problems before she was 50-55, your dad had problems before he was 55-60. But truthfully at a young age, particularly in the absence of overt problems, like yeah my dad was 5'10" 300 pounds or my mom smoked 2 packs a day, those are things that again, while they give you a clue as to why they had problems, it probably tells you that this genetics at work this is habits and day to day problems,"

If your cardiologist confirms you do have a family history, you can lower your chances of getting heart disease or stroke by changing your lifestyle by eating right and exercising.

"I had already had my heart checked, if anything I would have thought it had gotten better from doing what I'm supposed to do, from listening to the cardiologist," McCoy said. "But you definitely, everybody definitely needs a cardiologist regardless if you have a history of heart issues or not. It's just a preventative measure, I think. And I realize that now. Even though I didn't think that before, sometimes you've got to be slapped in the face to realize that it hurts."

Cardiologists will mostly have a good idea of your risk of heart disease or stroke from your family history, but you can also get a genealogy test to break down what you may still be at risk for when it comes to heart disease.

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