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Familiengeschichte und Ihr Herzinsuffizienzrisiko

von NFI Redaktion

Understanding Your Risk of Heart Failure

Do you have an uncle who always seems out of breath? Has one of your grandparents or parents passed away early due to „heart problems“? If heart failure runs in your family, you may be wondering if the branches extend to you as well.

Family history plays a role in your risk of heart failure. Genes passed down from your parents could make you more susceptible to diseases that damage or weaken your heart. However, genes alone do not condemn you to heart failure. It is also crucial how well you take care of your heart health.

„You can’t control who your parents are or what genes they’ve given you, both good and bad, but you can determine what to do with the genes you have,“ says Dr. Khadijah Breathett, Associate Professor of Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine. „It’s a bit like a forest fire. You can choose whether to add more fuel to the burning fire, or you can choose to work on extinguishing it.“

Genes and Your Risk of Heart Failure

Genes contribute to a portion of your risk of heart failure. You and your relatives share many of the same genes, some of which control the function of your heart.

If a parent suffers from heart failure, the risk increases by up to 70% compared to someone without a family history. A sibling with heart failure elevates your risk by about 40%.

Some genes directly cause diseases that damage your heart and lead to heart failure, such as dilated cardiomyopathy, channelopathies, and familial hypercholesterolemia. Certain genetic risks are more prevalent in colored individuals, highlighting the importance of understanding your family history to mitigate the risk of heart failure.

„Not everyone who has this gene mutation will develop heart failure later on, but people carrying this gene mutation have a higher risk of developing heart failure than those who do not,“ says Dr. Alanna Morris, Associate Professor at Emory University School of Medicine.

Genes also play a role in other familial heart failure risks like hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. Your family’s lifestyle choices significantly impact your risk of heart failure, emphasizing the importance of integrating heart-healthy habits such as exercise, balanced diet, and regular health screenings into your family routine.

The Family Environment

With the exception of diseases caused by a single gene, genes alone prepare for heart failure. Lifestyle factors are what trigger the disease. This is something families often share.

The foods you eat as a family, whether you get enough exercise, and whether you live in a high-pollution area can influence your risk of heart failure. Many of these environmental risks are within your control. The significance of adopting „Life’s Simple 8“ – eight lifestyle habits to improve your heart health when at risk of heart failure – is underscored by Dr. Breathett.

You could broach the topic with relatives when you gather at a family reunion or another meeting. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Have you ever had heart failure, a heart attack, high cholesterol, hypertension, or coronary heart disease?
  • Do you know if any of our other close relatives had these conditions?
  • Has anyone in the family had a procedure to treat a heart problem?

Knowing Your Family History

„Understanding the heart history and health issues in your family and community is a crucial step in making lifestyle changes to improve your health,“ says Dr. Patricia Chavez, Assistant Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology Specialist at Montefiore Medical Center.

The only way to learn your family history is to inquire. It may be uncomfortable to ask about your relatives‘ health conditions, but it is a vital conversation. Once you know your family history, you can apply strategies like Life’s Simple 8 to reduce the risk of heart failure.

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