family-history

Who wouldn’t be proud to know that their great grandfather was a national war hero, or if their great-great aunt had made a life-changing discovery? Tracing a family tree can bring out both interesting and surprising facts to our notice. One of the most important aspects an ancestral pedigree can highlight is the list of various diseases and conditions that have been prevalent in the family over the years.

In the first part of this series, we told you how your family history can affect your health and why genetic testing is something everyone should consider. In this part, we give you five convincing reasons to go back in time and know your roots.

1. Recipes Can Be A Secret, But Not The History
The various diseases that may run into a family for generations often change their pattern over time, in terms of the incidence, rate, recovery and even prevention. While these diseases may be an outcome of several factors, including environmental, lifestyle or chance, figuring out your risks can always be helpful in preserving your health.

2. Knowing Your Risk Can Save Your Life
While you may argue that what you don’t know can’t hurt you, sometimes a little knowledge can be powerful enough to save your life, especially if it involves being informed about diseases (diabetes, asthma, hypertension, obesity or even Alzheimer’s) you might be likely to get in the next five years.

Experts over the world believe that many diseases can be better controlled and managed if they’re diagnosed earlier. Here’s what you should know [1]

• If any member of your family has been diagnosed with a disease earlier that it normally occurs (10 to 20 years before most people get it).
• A particular disease or diseases that has affected more than one close relative.
• A condition that normally does not affect a certain gender such as breast cancer in a male member of your family.
• Disease combinations that are common within one family such as breast and ovarian cancer, or heart disease and diabetes.

3. Your Children Will Thank You
Has your child been falling sick constantly but doctors can’t figure out why? A medical record of your family will not only help narrow down the cause for your child’s illness, it will also asses their risk for other related conditions.

Some genetic diseases are blood disorders such as sickle-cell anemia and thalassemia, metabolic disorders such as Tay-Sach’s or Gaucher’s, and even celiac diseases.

4. Your Entire Family May Not Always Be Around
So you have suddenly been diagnosed with a rare type of cancer or blood condition, and you wonder how, because no one in your family has ever had it. While you are trying to figure out answers to all these questions, some relative talks about a long-forgotten aunt, who was diagnosed with this condition a few years ago. However, she is no longer available to answer your questions.

It is in such times that a detailed medical record of several generations in the family comes handy. It will not only help clear the fog in your head, but also aid the doctors in formulating a treatment plan.

5. You May Be Able To Personalize Your Treatment Plan
By knowing which diseases run in your family, it may be possible to prevent an illness or address it as early as possible. This will assist your medical team to guide you through lifestyle and dietary modifications that can reduce your risk further.

What You Can Do
The following websites provide additional information on family history.
• Centers For Disease Control And Prevention’s Family History Website for the Public — www.cdc.gov/genomics/famhistory/famhist.htm
• US Surgeon General’s Family History Initiative—www.hhs.gov/familyhistory/
• National Society for Genetic Counselors—www.nsgc.org/consumer/familytree/

For more interesting stories, visit our Health page. Read more about Diseases & Conditions here.

Read More:
‘The Theory Of Everything’ About ALS
Genetic Testing: Should You Go For It?
Is Diabetes Hereditary?

References:
1. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/genomics/public/file/print/FamHistFactSheet.pdf