ZocdocAnswers"How often should I have my heart checked, with a strong family history of heart disease?"

Question

"How often should I have my heart checked, with a strong family history of heart disease?"

I have a terrible family history of heart disease on my maternal side. My mother, her father, great uncles and others have had heart issues for years, usually starting in their early forties. I am now in my early forties, and my fear of being plagued by the same heart issues is building, even though I think my lifestyle has been healthier than theirs. I don't smoke. I eat right and exercise almost daily, for at least twenty minutes per day. Despite my fears and family history of heart disease, I haven't been good about going to the doctor. I have been once in the past five years, in fact. So, how often should I see a doctor to have my heart checked, and what tests should I ensure are prescribed?

Answer

This is an excellent question and it is definitely a good idea to make sure that you are seeing a physician regularly for preventative health monitoring. It's always easier to prevent something like heart disease, when possible, then to try and deal with the after effects of something like a heart attack. In general, adults should all have a primary care physician and should have at minimum an annual visit. Even if you are feeling well, there are several reasons why this is important. First, you never know when something might happen unexpectedly, and at that time it's good to have a doctor who knows you and your health history. Second, depending upon your age, health history, and family history, there are recommended screening exams that should be done in a preventative way. For example, adults over age 25 should start having their cholesterol checked, women over age 21 will need routine gynecological care, adults over age 50 should start having colonoscopies. In order to determine what screening tests, routine laboratory evaluations, or vaccinations you might need to keep you healthy, it is important to meet with a physician. It also sounds like you are making all of the right decisions about diet and exercise, and your doctor can help support you in that and assist with additional resources as needed.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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