Why the Holidays are so important for heart health discussions - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Why the Holidays are so important for heart health discussions

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Posted: Thursday, November 28, 2013 7:10 am | Updated: 12:09 pm, Thu Nov 28, 2013.

I had the conversation in my aunt’s car on a South Dakota road. I’m talking about starting that conversation about your family’s heart history.

In the handful of moments that matter, this is one that can be lifesaving.

I know it can feel uncomfortable to bring up the topic. Let’s face it, nobody loves talking about this stuff. Many tell me they are scared the conversation will be a downer, a look too close at the end of life with the very people who would be the most heart-breaking to lose.

But I’ve found these conversations can be focused on life and healthy living and can really branch into some meaningful moments. When you are together over the holidays, it is the perfect chance to brew some heart-healthy green tea, take some time for yourself and aim for quality conversation with family.

Remember, you get half your genetic makeup from each parent. So the traits that gave you those great curls or the ability to master just about any instrument you try are similar to the traits that make heart disease show up.

So now that you know why to ask, here’s what you need to ask.

Try to find out at what age your family members had any heart issues, a heart emergency or discovered symptoms. The Mayo Clinic suggests you find out if your dad or brother had heart disease before 55 and if your mom or sister did before 65. (If you are adopted, the agencies may keep information on file or your adoptive parents may have been given information on your bio parents.)

Checking your immediate family history is most important. You don’t need to research the entire family tree, although I will tell you that in these conversations, my sister and I have especially enjoyed channeling our inner “Nancy Drew” to put together a broader look at our family. We feel like medical super sleuths when we discover the descriptions of symptoms attributed to one thing, but modern science has since linked them to something else.

The next step is to be sure to share your findings with your doctor. This is really important. Set a reminder in your phone or somewhere handy to call their office after the holidays and get an update in your records. Ask your doctor for some tips on lifestyle changes and possibly even adjusting your screening schedule, if needed.

Next, if you are a little down about what you discover, please know you have the power to change your course. This information should empower you. Nature and nurture work together here, and you have the power to change your lifestyle and your kids’ lifestyles. Simple tweaks to activities, food, and your home environment can make a big impact.

I’m constantly posting tips on my Facebook and Twitter pages for ways to live heart healthy. I am so passionate about this issue since losing my grandfather to a heart attack.

My aunt’s car was the first of many conversations. Grandma Raml expects me to ask questions (I am a journalist, after all.) But now, she expects them on heart health, and if you need an excuse, blame me! Tell your family, this pesky reporter is making you uncover your heart history. I’ll gladly take the blame to help you get the conversation started.

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