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Jennie Garth is speaking from the heart about her heart health.
Garth opened up exclusively to PEOPLE about the day-to-day impact of her leaky heart valve, which she first went public with in 2009.
“It’s not something that affects me on the daily,” the Beverly Hills, 90210 actress tells PEOPLE. “It’s just something that’s good to know about your heart if you’ve got something going on in there.”
Back in 2009, Garth first revealed details surrounding her leaky valve to Access Hollywood.
“It’s your connection to your heart … your artery, the main artery that goes to your heart,” she said. “It sort of flutters open and shut sort of a thing, so you … it’s weird because sometimes when I’m resting I can feel a little weird fluttering.”
And though she is able to lead a normal and active life, she is aware that trouble could arise as she ages.
“Down the road it’s something that could get more complicated or it could not,” she explained. “People have had valve replacements and that kind of thing… but I’m prepared, that’s the key.”
Garth, 47, revealed that she first visited a cardiologist when she turned 30, “certain that they would give me a clean bill of health.”
When she learned that she had a leaky heart valve she was shocked but thankful for the results given her family’s history with heart disease.
“I was actually kind of shocked to hear that I had [a leaky valve],” she shares, “but also relieved to know that I have it so that I could be more educated about my own health moving forward.”
Garth, who is adamant about “being your advocate for your own health,” recently partnered with genetic testing company Invitae to help people identify genetic predispositions that could impact health by offering affordable medical grade testing.
“You can use the results from this test to make medical decisions,” she shares. “It’s something you can really utilize in your life going forward.”
Invitae offers genetic testing in a broad range of clinical areas and is running a #WhoHoldsYourHeart campaign through the end of the month: The company will donate $10 to the American Heart Association for every post users share on Instagram with the company tagged along with #WhoHoldsYourHeart.
“The #WhoHoldsYourHeart campaign is so great because it’s one of those simple calls to action,” Garth shares.
Heart disease is a health issue that runs strong on both sides of my family. My father suffered a heart attack and was diagnosed with arterial sclerosis at age 37. Over the next 30 years, he underwent multiple open-heart surgeries: by-passes, stents, balloons - you name it. I stay heart healthy for him, because I know that heart disease isn’t always about your lifestyle choices – your risk can be in your genes too ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ For #HeartMonth, I’ve partnered with Invitae to raise awareness about that genetic connection ➡️ Visit @invitae to learn how genetic testing can educate you about your cardiac risks ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️WE WANT TO KNOW #WhoHoldsYourHeart!!! Share your photo, tag @Invitae and use the #WhoHoldsYourHeart hashtag!! 😍For EACH POST by Feb 29 Invitae will donate $10 to @american_heart A cause super close to my ❤️#invitaepartner
A post shared by Jennie 💛 (@jenniegarth) on Feb 21, 2020 at 9:09am PST
So who holds her own heart? Garth says that it is her three daughters with ex-husband Peter Facinelli.
“I stay healthy for them,” she says. “I know that they need me now more than ever.”
She adds, “You always think some day your job as a mom will be done but it never is. So I definitely want to stay healthy for them and be able to be in their lives forever.”
The What I Like About You actress also says she tries to lead by example when it comes to her kids.
“I think that they really do watch what we do as parents,” she says, adding that she stocks “only healthy food options in the house” and that “meal planning and prep is something that we all do together.”
Garth says it is important to “encourage people to take control of their own heart health and their own health in general” and “not wait for somebody else to come in and save the day because that’s not going to happen.”
She adds: “You have to take care of yourself.”