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For the Love of Your Heart

It’s that time of year when hearts are everywhere. From the tips of Cupid’s arrows to the red boxes of chocolates lining store aisles, February is known as the month of love. So it is only fitting that this month is also focused on your real heart — and the ways to keep it healthy.

Each February the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute celebrates American Heart Month,¨ awareness about heart disease and the variety of factors that might influence your risk of developing it. Maintaining a healthy heart is one of the best ways to increase the quality and quantity of your life.

Heart disease is actually a range of conditions that can include narrowing of the blood vessels, problems with heart rhythm, or congenital heart defects. Because of the broad nature of heart disease, many risk factors — and their associated omics — can play a role in your overall heart health.

One of the most common risk factors for developing heart disease is high blood pressure, which nearly half of all Americans have. Its related omic, the physiome, describes your body’s physiological function, which can include your blood’s force against your artery walls that may result in high blood pressure. Other major factors that can lead to heart disease, and their related omics, include smoking (exposome), having high cholesterol (proteome), being obese (phenome), not getting enough physical activity (physiome),  and having diabetes (proteome).

In addition to these factors, your family history also plays an important part of your overall risk of developing heart disease. While the exact genetic markers for most forms of heart disease are still not well understood, we know that heart disease often runs in families.  This is why knowing your family history is so important.

To track down that history, start by asking your immediate family members questions about any known heart attacks and strokes in the family. Then ask about medications family members may be taking. You might find out that your otherwise healthy uncle has been on cholesterol-lowering medications for the last 30 years.

But family history goes beyond genetics and may include shared habits and exposures simply because family members live in the same household. That might be eating an unhealthy diet because you live in a food desert, or being exposed to second-hand smoke or air pollution. There has even been research that associates adversities experienced as a child — including emotional, physical or sexual abuse and neglect — with an increased risk of developing heart disease later on in life.

But familial risk factors are only part of the story. Knowing your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels can help you take control of your health. Perhaps you have this information, but have yet to find a way to easily store and reference it.

Because believes knowledge of your health will empower you, our app provides you with a secure and friendly way to input a variety of omic markers related to heart disease. These omic markers will document your phenome (weight), physiome (blood pressure and physical activity), exposome (smoking), and proteome (cholesterol and blood sugar). This information will give you confidence when discussing your heart health with your primary care provider (PCP).

If you haven’t had a routine physical evaluation recently, make an appointment with your PCP. Regular blood pressure checks and lab work can help determine your personal risk of heart disease — and this information can be even more powerful when combined with your family’s heart health history.

Make February the month you show your love to not only those around you, but also yourself. Get a physical evaluation. Wear red on Friday, February 7th. And plan a small change to improve your heart health. You are the only one who can show your heart the love it deserves.

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