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Feb 15, 2010 5:00 PM by Veronica White

Know Family HIstory to Save Your Heart

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., so for "Heart Month" find out your family history-- it could save your life.

One heart surgery patient at Heart Hospital of Lafayette, Francis "Jeb" Guidry, says his family has "the Guidry heart"-- a history of serious heart problems.

Many died young because of these problems, such as his uncle, who died at 39 years old and his father who died at 45 years old.

If a first degree relative has premature heart disease, your chances go up 33%, and with 2 relatives your chances go up 50%. Premature heart disease, for women, is before the age of 55, and for women, before the age of 65.

"The most important are brothers, sisters, mom or dad, and what specific type disease they had-- heart failure is different from a heart attack," says Heart Hospital cardiologist Vernon Valentino.

He recommends getting screened every 2 years, eating a diet low in fat and cholesterol and living an active lifestyle.

Chances for getting heart disease increase when other hereditary risk factors are included:

"Diabetes and elevated cholesterol also tend to run in families, it further increases the risk," says Dr. Valentino.

Jeb Guidry had open heart surgery on February 9th, but he is doing well for someone in his 70's with a family history of heart disease.

He says his way of life-- and what he recommends-- is moderation.

"I was never overweight, never drank or smoked... I can eat boudin-- I just can't east it every day and as much as I want," he says.

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