In your family, special mementos, such as your great-grandmother’s china, may be passed along through generations. You may also inherit Uncle Fred’s prominent nose, Aunt Bertha’s musical talent — or your mother’s poor heart health. Family provides the foundation of well-being, physical attributes and our health — good or bad.
Many health problems, including major illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, as well as contributing risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, can be rooted in genetics. If your family has a history of these health issues, you’re at higher risk for developing them.
Your risk of heart disease jumps up if you have a family history of heart attack — even if you don’t have other risk factors such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. About 15 percent of all heart attacks are attributed to a family history.
And if someone in your family had a heart attack before age 55, you should be even more vigilant about your heart health. A recent study found having a first-degree relative (mother, father, sibling) with a heart attack under age 55 increased risk by 33 percent; having two relatives with a heart attack under age 55 increased risk by 50 percent.
Keeping other risk factors such as high blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol under control is even more critical if you have a family history of heart disease. Getting more active, quitting smoking and losing excess weight are essential.
Blood Sugar Management
When it comes to blood sugar management, genes aren’t the entire story but play an important role in developing a problem. Right now, research tells us a family history of type 2 diabetes is one of the strongest risk factors for getting the disease but it only seems to matter in people living a Western lifestyle — high-fat, low-fiber diets with minimal exercise.
If you have a first-degree relative who has diabetes, your risk of diabetes is higher than those with no family history. The odds of getting the disease increase with the number of relatives who have diabetes.
If you have type 2 diabetes and were diagnosed before age 50, the risk of your child getting diabetes is 1 in 7. If you were diagnosed after age 50, your child’s risk is 1 in 13. When both parents have type 2 diabetes, the child’s risk is 1 in 2.
Research has also found another disturbing trend in people who have a family history of diabetes: they’re more likely to gain weight and show signs of insulin resistance than people fed the same diet who don’t have a family history of diabetes. This means people with a family history of diabetes must work harder at keeping weight off. In a cruel cycle, obesity is also a strong risk factor for developing diabetes.
Take a Holiday Health Snapshot
As you gather with family during the upcoming holiday season, take time to find out more about your family history. Between the family vacation photo album display and the big game on TV, ask about the health of aunts, uncles, grandparents, brothers, sisters and parents. What health issues has anyone faced?
You can’t control the risk factor of having a family history of a certain problem. That’s why it’s even more important to address the risk factors you can control through good nutrition, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and managing cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. Creating your family health snapshot is also helpful for your doctor so he or she can focus attention on specific medical issues or recommend appropriate screenings. So this holiday season, give the gift of better health by learning your family health history and risks — for yourself and for generations to come — and by improving your diet and lifestyle.
Reliv nutritional products, while not intended to treat any disease or condition, provide balanced nutrition for a healthier lifestyle and overall well-being. Some Reliv products, such as CardioSentials® and GlucAffect®, are clinically proven to help manage risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood sugar and weight issues.
Cheers to your health!