As the holiday season moves into full swing and you’re preparing for family gatherings, your top priority needs to be a conversation. Utilize the time your family is all under one roof to discuss your family medical history. It might seem unimportant, but it could actually be life-changing, or even life-saving. In between bites of juicy turkey, bubbling casseroles, and warm apple pie, talk to your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles about their medical history. Many diseases, cancers, and heart problems are genetic. This means health problems could run in the family. If you and your doctor address a potential health issue today, you may be able to avoid it in the future.
What Health Problems Are Genetic?
Some diseases and health issues are inherited, meaning a gene mutation is passed through the generations making you more susceptible to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other autoimmune diseases. If an immediate family member was diagnosed with breast, ovarian, or colon cancer, you are at a higher risk for diagnoses. Mental illness and stroke are also hereditary. Be sure to inform your doctor if anyone in your family has suffered from a mental illness or had a stroke at an early age. A hereditary disease that causes infertility is Klinefelter syndrome. Klinefelter syndrome only affects men. Rhett syndrome tends to affect more females than males. Rhett syndrome is an abnormality in the X chromosome that leads to a lapse in a baby’s motor skill development. Other genetic disorders that are inherited include cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, and Down’s syndrome.
What Information Does My Doctor Need?
The Surgeon General completed a survey that determined 96% of the American population understands the value of knowing your family medical history. However, only one-third of that percentage actually knows that information. Unsure what information you need to gather? We recommend collecting the medical issues from your parents and siblings, as well as grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews from both sides of your family. You need to record the current age, ethnic background, and sex of each of your family members. As you discover the medical problems from your loved ones, learn the age of their diagnosis. It’s also necessary to find out the age and cause of death for anyone who has passed away. Your doctor can predict the health issues you may face by learning your family’s medical history. With this knowledge, you are able to more successfully treat, and even prevent, the occurrence of many problems. In most scenarios, early detection of heart issues and various cancers can be life-changing. Your doctor only knows to screen you for these problems if there is a family history.
Can I Prevent Genetic Health Problems?
When you are aware of your family medical history, you are aware of your risk for potential diseases. There is no guarantee you will be diagnosed with a specific disease just because a family member from a previous generation was diagnosed. But identifying your risks can lead your doctor to establish a personal prevention strategy. You can make immediate changes to your lifestyle through diet and exercise in order to lower your risk for an inherited disease like obesity, heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. Prevention can also come in the form of early screening. Early detection is the best way to successfully treat various health problems before they become life-threatening.
The Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving Day as National Family History Day to remind you to gather this important information. So as your family gets together over the holiday, don’t hesitate to have this crucial conversation.
Once you learn your medical history, make an appointment at The Woman’s Clinic to go over your risks with your doctor. Our team of physicians will determine the best course of action and work to prevent the medical trend in your family.