Do you know your family's history of heart disease?
Heart disease contributes to 1 out of every 4 death in America, but the good news is heart disease is preventable.
However, one key risk factor is often forgotten -- knowing your family history.
By all appearances, Andy Klein is the picture of health, which makes his story all the more surprising.
"Six years ago, so six years ago this month, I had a heart attack, open heart surgery, ended up being quadruple bypass," Klein said.
He was just 45 years old at the time and doctors had told him he was healthy, but it turned out he had a family history of heart disease.
"I didn't know my maternal grandfather had a heart attack at 41, which he survived, but I didn't know that he'd even had one at that age. Had I known that, I likely would have gone for more treatment more precautionary treatment," Klein said.
Dr. Richard Spira, an interventional radiologist, said genetics is one of the most common cardiovascular risk factors.
"It's hard to find a family that doesn't have some form of cardiovascular disease," Spira said.
An important factor of family history is the age of onset of heart disease among family members, specifically if they developed the disease in their younger years or died an early death.
"There are a lot of people out there that have a vague history of early death or grandma or dad died suddenly. We don't know why, and there's a good chance in that scenario we're talking about a cardiovascular-related death," Spira said.
Klein's experience has served as an eye-opener for his family and friends.
"It was a real wake up call to a lot of people, which is fortunate, in a way. I was the canary in the coal mine. They were able to see what happened and say, 'OK, I better get checked out myself," he said.
Bottom line, if a family member is diagnosed with heart disease or has a heart disorder, you are encouraged to get screenings for risk factors and for early-stage disease before symptoms even show.
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