Family Tree

The U.S. Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving National Family Health History Day. Let’s make sure that you and your family members maintain good health. Be aware of your family history, and if you don’t know then ask. Many people are at risk of certain diseases because of their genetics, and knowing your genetic background may someday be a lifesaver. This Thanksgiving, make it a point to update yourself on diseases and illnesses in your family. It’s a good time to be attentive to both your family and your health.

There are numerous examples of how family history can impact current generations. A scary, and more common disease is cancer. For example, a woman with a strong family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer is at substantial risk for developing that same cancer compared to someone without that family history. There are also genetic carriers for countless diseases. While they may not affect you personally, the disease can be passed along to children who may exhibit the symptoms or become carriers themselves. Being aware of your vulnerabilities, and then getting tested if appropriate can make a big difference in your life or that of a family member.

Aside from cancer, conditions that have inheritance patterns include arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, and stroke. Pain can result from all of these conditions too. Those relatives most closely related to you genetically will influence your risk of developing these conditions. These include: parents, children, grandparents, siblings, aunts, and uncles.

Mental health also has a genetic component. If you or someone in your family suffers from a mental illness like depression or bipolar disorder, for instance there is a good chance that someone else in your family had a similar mental illness. How severe the illness will manifest can never be predicted, but being aware of the possibility is important in diagnosing and treating the problem.

Keeping a detailed history of illnesses and diseases in your family, will help your physician if a problem does arise. Genetic testing can provide useful information in certain circumstances, and provides an option for those not knowing their blood relatives. Be proactive. If heart disease, stroke, or diabetes affect family members, take preventive measures like following a healthy diet and exercise plan. This will help to lower the risks and impact of these diseases on your life.

During this Thanksgiving, take some time to review your health history together. It may save your life, or spare you a lifetime of pain.

Remember, no one is immune to pain, but together we can overcome it.


Source Information: Illinois Department of Public Health