Vascular Disease Runs in My Family: What Can I Do to Prevent It?

Knowing your family medical history can help you understand what kinds of screenings and tests you need and give you powerful tools for protecting your health. The tendency to develop a vascular disease like coronary artery disease or blood clots often runs in families. 

When you first see one of the providers at Heart & Vascular Institute, expect some questions about any diseases or conditions your parents, grandparents, or siblings have. That helps us better understand your risk factors for vascular disease

Understanding vascular disease

Your vascular system is the network of blood vessels responsible for moving blood from your heart and lungs to the other parts of your body. Your arteries, veins, and capillaries nourish every organ, tissue, and cell.

Many vascular diseases are both common and potentially life-threatening. For example, coronary artery disease, which can cause heart attacks, is a vascular disease. Others include: 

Although many vascular conditions have a genetic component, you can reduce your risk even if a particular disease runs in your family. 

Modifiable risk factors

Risk factors are modifiable — you can do something about them — or non-modifiable. For example, you can’t change your DNA or race, but you can choose not to smoke. You can lower the risk of many diseases by modifying your behavior.

With vascular diseases, focusing on modifiable risk factors can be especially significant. Eating a healthy diet and working to keep your cholesterol levels in a normal range can help you avoid atherosclerosis, plaque buildup that hardens and narrows your arteries.

Additional lifestyle factors you can control include: 

Living a healthy lifestyle can be challenging. But if you have a family history of vascular disease, overcoming the challenges offers big benefits. If you struggle with your diet or getting enough exercise, your doctor can provide guidance. 

Get recommended screenings

If you have a family history of vascular disease, get all the recommended screenings and tests. For example, if high blood pressure is a problem in your family, get your blood pressure checked regularly.

Your primary care doctor likely recommends screenings during your routine visits, and you should attend those screenings because they’re the best way to catch problems early.

If you have other medical conditions, closely follow your doctor’s instructions. People with Type 2 diabetes have a greater risk of many vascular conditions, but you can decrease your risk through proper management of the condition. 

Visit a specialist

Finally, if you have a family history of vascular disease, visit a specialist before you need them. Establishing a baseline — and a relationship with a provider — when you’re healthy is a good way to learn what you need to pay attention to and what changes might help.

Schedule your appointment today at one of the four convenient Heart & Vascular Institute locations in Dearborn, Detroit, Southfield, and Wayne, Michigan.

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