American Heart Month: Urge All to Focus on Family Heart Health


Use American Heart Month, February, as an opportunity to learn about your family’s health history and lower the risk of a heart attack. 


For parents, American Heart Month presents an ideal time to take stock of family health patterns. The National Lipid Association (NLA) urges Americans to start a dialogue about your family health history to help determine if you or your children are at risk for heart disease due to genetics. Most Americans are not aware of all the major heart attack symptoms, even though heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States.


An estimated 600,000 Americans are unknowingly at risk for premature heart attacks because they have Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH), a prevalent but practically unknown genetic disorder that causes high blood cholesterol. Individuals with FH may look healthy, but they are at a severely increased risk for heart disease if left untreated. Although there is no cure for FH, it can be treated successfully and patients are able to live normal, active lives.


“American Heart Month is a great conversation starter to discuss your family health history and help safeguard your loved ones against heart disease,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, President of the National Lipid Association and a Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at Penn State University.


If you or a family member experience any of the following symptoms, please see your healthcare practitioner to discuss your genetic risk for heart disease:


    * Family history of cardiovascular disease before the age of 50-60;

    * Swollen tendons on the heels and hands;

    * Yellowish areas (cholesterol deposits) around the eyes; or

    * Routine blood test results that show high cholesterol.


For more information, including a family cholesterol history tool and patient tear sheet, please visit