Extension connection: Family health either history or mystery

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 25, 2007

By Synithia Williams / Guest Columnist

Are you able to list the health concerns older family members face or those deceased relatives may have endured?

Being aware of each illness can be eye-opening as they relate to a forecast of health concerns family members will continue to endure. Taking a closer look at the family health history may reveal that diseases can be traced through family lineage.

Statistics show 40 percent of the population is at an increased genetic risk for at least one disease. It is important to note that risks don’t have to materialize into health conditions. An inherited health risk means an individual is predisposed to develop an illness. The United States Centers for Disease Control only 29.8 percent of Americans have tried to gather and organize their family’s health history but the former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard H. Carmona asserts that the “bottom line is that knowing your family history can save your life.”

It’s important to also pay attention to cultural and learned behaviors. While diseases such as sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis are purely genetic, many others are related to environment. Thus, information regarding eating and exercise regimens can be just as important.

Avoid letting certain conditions stay under the radar. The major health issues directly tied to the nation’s highest percentage of deaths are heart disease, cancer and strokes. Men also have unique issues with their prostate, while women encounter breast health issues. Being proactive presents you with the opportunity to take control of you and your family’s health.

Once the history is collected, it can empower family members to make informed decisions regarding their health. Those who have any predisposition will want to make sure they alert their physicians and get early health screenings.

To set up a family medical history record online, to download or to print a template, visit https://familyhistory.hhs.gov/.

For more information on this or related topics, contact Synithia Williams, regional extension agent in Family and Child Development for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at 329-1148 or email at mailto:willisl@aces.edu