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All in the Family

Filed Under: Sexual Health at 9:22 am | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
SistersI am one of three girls. As such, I am constantly affected by the actions of my sisters. I owe to them my neon-spandex phase in the early 90s (in my defense, I was in elementary school), my penchant for all things corny and six of the hair clips in my bathroom. I am sure you are much the same. The lives of your siblings directly influence your own. You can thank them for your sense of humor, your spontaneity/caution and your ability to socialize. You can also curse them for your fear of heights, your plethora of embarrassing moments and, now, your risk of heart disease.

Recent studies have found that having a sibling who has suffered from a heart attack or experienced chest pain as a result of clogged arteries significantly increases your chances of experiencing the same. You may think this is old news. After all, you know all about family history. You even know that an obese sibling is 60 percent more likely to develop heart problems after a sister or brother does.  But this isn’t old news. This is new, updated information, and it doesn’t just apply to the already-at-risk. Otherwise healthy brothers have a 20 percent greater risk and sisters a seven percent greater risk of suffering from a potentially fatal heart attack, regardless of lifestyle. This is due, primarily, to genetics, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to reverse it.

The first and most important part of prevention is recognizing your risk factors.  If that includes your big brother, that’s something you have to acknowledge. You have to be aware that you are automatically at a greater risk and must, therefore, take more control of your lifestyle to compensate. Abandon tobacco. Drink in moderation. Exercise regularly and maintain a well-balanced diet. Monitor your cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides. And while you’re at it, call your brother or sister and see how much of your healthy lifestyle can rub off on them.

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