If you are like me, you have spent a significant amount of time and effort researching your family's history. One side benefit of all this investment is that, using this data to compile a family medical history. By analyzing the medical conditions and causes
of death of your close relatives you can assess your risk of getting certain
medical conditions that run genetically in families.
For instance, a male
armed with the cause of death for his father, grandfather and great
grandfather can formulate a hypothesis about his own end of life
experience. If all the males in his paternal line lived into their 80s
and 90s, this indicates that he might have inherited good long life
genes from his family and may follow suit. On the flip side, if they
all died of heart attacks at an early age, then lifestyle changes and
medical assistance may be in order.
Creating A Family Medical History: A Personal Decision
If you are the worrying type, you might be happier not pondering the darker side of life. Some folks feel that knowing their health risk factors would create too heavy a burden for them to carry. There is a certain comfort in the “ignorance is bliss” way of life and there is nothing wrong if that is your choice. I tend to be in the camp who want to be armed with the best possible information about my health risks.
Conducting a Health Survey
You might want to take this concept a step further by doing a health survey of your living family members and documenting diagnosed medical
conditions for each family member. Data collection may include the age at which they were first
diagnosed, their treatment, and if they ever had surgery. You may get a certain amount of push-back from
some family members, but explain to them that the work you are doing will benefit the
For deceased family members, municipal death records are an excellent source of information since they list the official cause and age at death.
Another way to collect information is by attending the funerals, viewings, or wakes of your family members. Pay attention to conversations about the deceased person’s medical struggles prior to death and ask questions when the opportunity presents itself.
Some deaths are caused by events that are random in nature, such as a car accident, fire or mine collapse. These events are not likely to occur again and provide little useful information about health condition. Others are somewhat preventable such as lung cancer from sustained smoking, alcohol abuse or suicide. What you should really focus on are clusters of deaths from the same cause, especially the major ones: strokes, cancer, heart attacks, Alzheimer and dementia.
Taking Appropriate Action
Even if you discover a family genetic condition, it does not necessarily mean you are certain to inherit the condition. It only means that your chances are greater of having the condition passed on to you genetically.
With recent advances in DNA testing, medical genetic screening has become popular. There has been some rare cases where uterus removal or radical mastectomy surgeries have been performed preventatively in high risk patients.
Should you discover a significant threat in your family
medical history, there are reasonable steps you can take to manage the risk. For instance, if you know your family has a
history of Alzheimer disease, you could line up medical professionals to
closely monitor and test for symptoms. Early
diagnosis and treatment has shown to be effective in slowing the progression of
the disease using the latest drugs. You
could also buy a good long term care insurance policy to cover a prolonged
managed care or nursing home stay.
Most people choose not to dwell on dark subjects like death, but we are all going to go at some point. You might as well have factual information to help make best use of your time on the earth. Creating a family medical history is a good way to do that and you should definitely search family records for free at first and then look into several paid options.
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