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Risky business


July 2013

Itís risky business when your family tree has heart disease written all over it. Not to say your parents didnít pass along a number of nice things like good looks, a great mind or a sense of humor. But if your DNA puts you at an elevated risk of heart disease, you need to be aware and proactive.

"If you have a parent who has coronary artery disease, that has just doubled your risk, irrespective of what you do, and if you have a sibling who has heart disease, that quadruples it," says Dr. David Engle, an invasive cardiologist with Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group.

You canít change your genes but you can mitigate your risk.

No Smoking

Engle says take these words to heart. "I can never smoke. I can never be in an environment where there is secondhand smoke."

Follow Your Blood Pressure

"The closer you are to 120/80 the better. If your top number is over 140 or your bottom number is above 80, you need to be treated," Engle warns.

Know Your Cholesterol

"The total should be less than 200 and we want the LDL to be 70 or less. You may need to take medication, usually a statin drug," Engle says.

Stay at a Healthy Weight

"Adults who are overweight invariably get diabetes, and their risk of developing heart disease is substantially higher," Engle says.

Create a Baseline

There are several blood tests and imaging procedures to evaluate your risk of heart disease, but donít put the cart before the horse. If you have a strong genetic history of heart disease, Engle suggests you create a baseline by seeing your physician as early as your late teens to follow your blood pressure and cholesterol. If you are older, consult with your physician about whether additional testing is necessary.


This story ran in the July 2013 issue of: