Does Family History Dictate Your Heart Health?

Everyone in my family dies of heart disease. And stress is my middle name. Does that mean the cards are stacked against me? After years of denial, I finally saw a cardiologist to find out.
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Holly Andersen, MD, is too good-looking to be a cardiologist. I'm sitting in her office wondering who slipped the J.Jill model behind her desk. She keeps two 12-pound barbells on the credenza and does sets in between seeing patients. "Even if I can do it for just 20 or 30 seconds, I've done something for me," she says. As director of education at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, she's big on the idea of women doing something for themselves. She knows that many women have a "family and work first" attitude that puts their own health low on their to-do list.

Personally, I take a certain pride in not going to the doctor. Doctors are for wusses. Also, they always find something wrong -- as my mother, herself a doctor, used to tell me. I hate doctors. Unless they make me look better, in which case I love them. Let's review: Yes to dermatologists, no to virtually everyone else.

So what made me think that perhaps, at 50, I should go to a cardiologist? Well, recently I've been having palpitations and occasional shortness of breath. And a while back I wound up in the emergency room, thinking I was having a heart attack. Many hours later I learned I wasn't. It was actually a panic attack. Gee, could it have to do with any of the following?

1. My dad died. 2. Then my mom died. 3. My husband's a bit of a geezer. 4. My son has Asperger's syndrome. 5 My other son says he hates school. 6. I'm the breadwinner. 7. Nearly everyone in my family drops dead from a stroke or heart attack. Pick one.

Continued on page 2:  Doctors Are for Wusses


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