It’s a delightful game parents play whose nose the child has got, whose hair and eyes. This links the child to the family and creates a bond. But there is another more serious side to heredity and that is a family’s medical history.
Knowing which aunt had breast cancer and which uncle or grandparent had Alzheimer’s would help a person far more. You are likely to have inherited anything from diabetes and alcoholism to heart disease along with the brown hair and green eyes.
So nowadays doctors make it a point to ask you to research your family medical background so they can find out what disease you are at genetic risk for.
What you can do is mine the collective memory of your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents (or great uncles and great aunts), and draw up a chart much as you would make a family tree. Note down all the diseases that ran in the family, mental and physical and the causes of deaths.
Also, make a note of relationships within the family. This medical history tree is a record that could clarify for you how much you are at risk for any of the diseases that anybody in the family has had or is suffering from. You could trace your links back to any obscure relative who might have suffered from a rare disorder.
Where possible, get exhaustive information about when a family member was first diagnosed with a disease, and what treatment they underwent and if it included surgery.
In the case of those family members whose medical condition has been diagnosed, document details such as their habits of exercise or smoking or if they are obese.
Asthma, kidney problems, stroke, and mental illnesses are some of the kinds of medical problems you should watch out for. If someone had cancer find out the primary site. Also, some diseases have ethnic roots, so do some research into the country your family is originally from.
Researchers claim that about forty percent of people are at risk for common diseases such as heart disease and cancer. So the more you learn of your family’s medical history the more understanding you will have of the risk you are at.
With this information you can go in for genetic counseling, which will help you decide what kind of preventive measures you can take and which diseases you should be screened for. If an aunt who is a near relative has had breast cancer at the age of 50 then a woman should be screened for the same at least by age 30 and should have regular mammograms thereafter.
Using the family medical history, doctors can determine a pattern regarding specific diseases. This will help in identifying and diagnosing any medical condition and determining what kinds of tests you should undergo. The risk of you inheriting a particular disease and perhaps passing it on to your children can also be calculated.
The doctor can go further and determine who else in your family might be at risk of developing a disease and what kind of preventive measures they can take to lower the risk.
If you don’t have living parents or siblings, or are unable to get information from your relatives then try old medical records and family documents or letters to trace your medical history. If you are adopted and cannot learn about your family’s history then you should go in for regular checkups and preventive screening procedures.
Your family’s medical history will determine your future health and those of your children. So take the trouble to trace out every last detail and be knowledgeable about your medical legacy your health is at stake.