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It’s All in the Family

It’s All in the Family


The Holiday season brings together family and friends.  We share good food and fond memories.  We may also think about using this time to share and update your family health history. 

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, Diabetes and Glaucoma.   A complete record includes information from three generations of relatives, including children, brothers and sisters, parents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents, and cousins.  So, while sitting around enjoying Aunt Sarah’s pecan pie inquire what health issues seem to run in the family.  Take note about age of onset and severity of the condition. It is important to know if any family members passed away at an early age and to know what the suspected causes were.  Blindness is also an important healthy history concern.   Aunt Sarah maybe able to make the best pecan pie but can’t see who’s is standing next to her.  Ask how and why this came to be.  You may find Aunt Sarah’s fondness of pecan pie caused her to develop Diabetes which in turn caused her to lose her vision.  Every family member you have with the same medical conditions increases your risk of developing the same condition.

While a family medical history provides information about the risk of specific health concerns, having relatives with a medical condition does not mean that an individual will develop that condition. These complex disorders are influenced by a combination of genetic factors, environmental conditions, and lifestyle choices.  Knowing that history can allow the individual to take action and make lifestyle changes.  For example, Aunt Sarah, Grandma Rose and Uncle Bob all have Macular Degeneration a smart lifestyle change would be to quit smoking and get yearly eye examinations. 

Knowing your family health history is not enough, make sure to act on it.  It is important to keep all your health care professionals updated with your family medical history. Your healthcare professionals may recommend more frequent screening starting at an earlier age.  Early detection is key to managing and treating chronic conditions.  Important ocular conditions to take note of include:  Glaucoma, Macular Degeneration, and Amblyopia.  All of these ocular conditions have strong genetic factors and high risk for uncorrectable vision loss.

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Glaucoma can affect individuals of all ages.  Although it is most frequently diagnosed in the 40’s age group.  Screenings should begin at the first eye exam.  Macular Degeneration is often diagnosed in the 60’s age group however new studies show screening should begin as early as age 40.  Amblyopia screening should begin at age 6 months, especially if there is a strong family history.

If you need help compiling a family health history the American Medical Association has online tools and resources to assist you.  You can download forms or even create an online portal your entire family can use to stay updated.  Visit our website for links to AMA website. 

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