‘IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY’- Why Knowing your Family’s Medical History is Important

Nothing beats knowing who you are through and through. We are naturally inclined to wonder about why we behave the way we do, why we feel a certain way when we are around certain areas or environments. And even why we like the kind of food we like, especially the somewhat uncommon combinations and so on.

The sole factor responsible for this is our genetic make-up. It is essentially responsible for all of the things that make us act like we do, look like we do and is the sum of who we are. Our genes are also responsible for a lot of health conditions we may or may not be prone to.

Conditions ‘Running in the Family’

Since genes are passed on from parent-child, it is important to pay close attention to the health conditions parents and family members may have. This is different from contagion. Rather, it means by virtue of having the same genes as someone, we can be predisposed to certain illnesses, or have a higher risk of developing the diseases they may have.

A particular condition or disease might be described as “running in a family” if more than one person in the family has the condition.

This can be an unsettling realization, especially if we have or have had relatives who battled terminal illnesses or have certain conditions like extreme obesity from a certain age. Knowledge they say, is power…and for due reason. Being susceptible to a disease is not a closed case or an automatic sentence. Lifestyle changes or modifications geared towards managing the risk factors, can help one slow down or totally prevent the likelihood of coming down with a genetically inherited disease.

Recommendation

Some disorders that affect multiple family members are caused by gene variants (also known as mutations), which can be inherited (passed down from parent to child). Other conditions that appear to run in families are not caused by variants in single genes. Instead, environmental factors such as dietary habits, pollutants, or a combination of genetic and environmental factors are responsible for these disorders.

It is important to learn about your family’s health history. This means collecting information about relatives, including your parents, sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Find out about major medical conditions, including breast cancer (male and female), colon cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, stomach cancer, as well as heart conditions like arrhythmias, hypercholesterolemia and an enlarged heart.

Some important information to gather are:

  • Age at diagnosis of a major medical condition
  • Ethnic background or decent
  • Cause of death, as well as age at death (if condition is terminal)

With this you can be well informed to ascertain your level of risk for a particular disease or condition.

 

Talk to your doctor to determine your risk

Depending on your family history, your doctor may recommend:

  • Changes to your environment, lifestyle and diet that can reduce your risk
  • Earlier and more frequent disease screenings
  • Genetic counseling (A genetic counselor can help you determine whether your family history and genetics increase your risk of developing an inherited disease — as well as the extent of your risk)

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