How Your Family History Can Affect Your Health

November 29, 2012 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
You can significantly reduce the risk of disease and health complications just by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and avoiding cigarettes. But did you know your family history also has implications for your health?

Heart disease, diabetes, strokes, asthma and some forms of cancer are widespread health ailments that can be influenced by your family history. While you physically cannot change your genetic makeup, it's worth reviewing your family history as it can identify important clues about your chances of developing said problems.

This can be achieved by collecting information about your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings and children. Browse through death certificates and family records and analyse major medical conditions and causes of death that are passed down from generation to generation. Take note of the age the disease began and age at death. You can also ask blood relatives questions about already known inherited diseases. It helps to be sensitive; explain why you're asking and do it at the appropriate time in a private setting.

Family History Risk Factors: -
  • Diseases that are known to be passed on through genetic markers e.g. haemophilia.
  • Diseases that develop at an age earlier than expected in the popular general population.
  • Diseases that present in more than one close relative. (generally regarded to be mother, father, brothers and sisters or grandparents).
  • Disease combinations within a family, e.g. heart disease and diabetes or ovarian and breast cancer.

  • If you've pinpointed diseases that run in your family that you believe you have a high probability of developing, share your findings with your doctor. They can then assess your risk based on family history and other factors, and then recommend steps to help reduce your chances.

  • Adopting a healthier lifestyle can reduce the risk of inheriting diseases.
  • Undergoing screening tests to detect diseases at early stages when they're still treatable.
  • Undergoing genetic testing to identify inherited disease probabilities.
  • Consulting with a specialist to determine if you already have an inherited form of disease.

  • You may still be at risk of developing a disease even if a particular health problem isn't present in your family history. This is because your personal medical history and lifestyle choices can affect your chances of developing a disease. Identifying certain diseases in family members may also not have been possible because they died young before a chronic disease could develop. The best path is to focus on prevention and living the healthiest lifestyle you can.

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