Family Medicine, Preventive Medicine, Uncomfortable life saving questions

Doctors are not gossiping: Family Medical History.



Genetics is a science we may say we are just discovering if compared with other medical field related approaches, but what is undeniable now is that these info that we inherited can make us more prone to develop certain diseases or may determine our physical profile or as it was recently proved, it may have influence in our behaviour despite of all the social learnt aspect.

Health disorders are influenced by a combination of genetic factors, environmental conditions, and lifestyle choices so even if a disease runs in your family you might develop it or not and you could also have a disease that none of your relatives have ever had. But having your family health problems identifies could help you control the risk or to avoid its consequences.

We are an integrated system in which our interaction with our environment and its influence is as crucial as our way of living or as our attitude; but what we until now can not (naturally at least) modify in this equation, is that information that we receive from our parents and them from their predecessors.

This is why doctors collect your family history. Many diseases and conditions are proven to pass through generations and your bloodline might have the answer to your persistent increase of weight, or to your crazy allergies or to that difficulty to process a particular food.

A family medical history can identify people with a higher-than-usual chance of having common disorders, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers, and diabetes. A family history also can provide information about the risk of rarer conditions caused by mutations in a single gene, such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease.

Many genetic diseases first become obvious in childhood, and knowing about a history of a genetic condition can help find and treat the condition early.

You and your family members share genes. You may also have behaviors in common, such as exercise habits and what you like to eat. You may live in the same area and come into contact with similar things in the environment. Family history includes all of these factors, any of which can affect your health.

While collecting your family history there will be personal questions related to your blood relatives; being ready to answer those and knowing the reasons why your health care giver is asking about it may help you to relax and to be honest and open.

Let me make this harshly graphic:

Let’s say you are a pregnant woman who goes to a first assessment and the doctor starts asking questions related to risk factors for having high blood pressure during pregnancy.

You decide to deny everything, even when you are interrogated about your grandma or mother or maternal aunts or sisters having had this problem before, because you think that is not relevant to you that this condition did threaten your grandmother’s life all those many years ago. You are thinking: -“what’s with this doctor, what’s next, asking for my bra size?”-

So the doctor rules out this risk on you, not taking any special action to avoid it. The result is that, at the end of your pregnancy, after all was going well, you inexplicably almost lose your life and your baby, out of a terrible sometimes mortal High Blood Pressure crisis called Eclampsia. An unnecessary and preventable event if you had been honest or trust your physician procedures.

How to collect information?

CDC recommends that, to get the complete picture, you may use family gatherings as a time to talk about health history. If possible, look at death certificates and family medical records. Collect information about your parents, sisters, brothers, half-sisters, half-brothers, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews.

Include information on major medical conditions, causes of death, age at disease diagnosis, age at death, and ethnic background. Be sure to update the information regularly and share what you’ve learned with your family and with your doctor.

Collect your family health history information before visiting the doctor, and take it with you. Even if you don’t know all of your family health information, share what you do know. Family history, even if incomplete, can help your doctor decide which screening tests you need and when those tests should start.

Also the main objective for recovering this history is Health Prevention. Having a known background of chronic diseases you all can get involved in good lifestyle habits, such as exercising and eating healthy. These habits can benefit the entire family and might help prevent or delay chronic conditions like blood sugar problems or acquired heart diseases.

Has your mother or sister had breast cancer? Talk with your doctor about whether having a mammogram earlier is right for you.

Does your mom, dad, sister, or brother have diabetes? Ask your doctor how early you should be screened for diabetes.

Did your mom, dad, brother, or sister get colorectal (colon) cancer before age 50? Talk with your doctor about whether you should start getting colonoscopies earlier or have them done more often.

For your doctor, your family and personal medical history are instruments to build a personalized health care plan, with prevention as the main objective; and prevention in health is certainly a guarantee.


Art from:

Artistic Images of African American Family Reunion

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