Where does family history fit in your health?
Family history is something your doctor looks at during routine exams and pays great attention to when you are facing something more serious.
Know your family history
Certain conditions that could threaten your health may have already shown up in the lives of your parents or grandparents.
Your family health history is an important part of your medical record. Your doctor appreciates the time you spend noting who among your blood relatives have had certain diseases and conditions like cancer, heart disease, stroke, asthma, and diabetes.
Family histories take into account both genetic factors and lifestyle factors. The fact that Grandpa died early of heart disease doesn’t mean that you will too. It may, however, alert your doctor to see that you get proper tests done at key ages and that you stick to a plan of healthy eating, no smoking, and lots of exercise.
For certain diseases, doctors pay attention to something called genetic predisposition. Genes may not be directly causing disease the way germs or bacteria might, but the genes can have a tendency to alter or mutate if other factors are present, like smoking or obesity.
Another form of genetic diseases is where a genetic mutation is passed from generation to generation. Fortunately these conditions are rare.
If your family has a history of one of these types of disorders, family members are probably already under the close supervision of both a primary care doctor and a team of specialists.
Diseases like hemophilia (a blood clotting disorder) or cystic fibrosis (a disorder that causes abnormally thick mucus linings in the lungs) are detected early in children and demand a regimen of strict therapy throughout life. Other diseases, like Huntington’s disease, a degenerative brain disorder, can go undetected until middle adulthood when symptoms begin.
Control the choices you make for your own health
The take-away lesson for family medical history is that you can’t alter it.
What you can control are the choices you make for your own health. Have a visit with your doctor about how simple choices like diet, exercise, and eliminating bad habits can go a long, long way toward keeping you healthy, regardless of what’s in your genes.