Preventive Health: The Importance of Knowing Your Family Roots, a guest post by Tara Heath
You’ve probably heard remarks of how certain family members look just like any other family member who has long since passed. How many times have you been told that you “have the eyes of your father” or the “nose of your mother?” Probably more than you can count.
Physical traits of family members can date back through two, four or six generations, and even more, but these aren’t the only traits that we can inherit through each generation; there can be health issues as well.
While there are some health factors that we can control (i.e. our diet, alcohol intake, exercise, etc.), there are more serious health factors that we cannot. When it comes to our health, there are many things often overlooked by patients and doctors alike, such as the medical history of our families.
Genetic makeup plays a significant role as to what diseases and health issues that each individual may be more prone to or at risk for. In short, if health issues between several generations of one family are consistent, then children and grandchildren of those family lines are much more likely to be at risk for developing those specific health problems.
But how can we know these things?
Knowing Your Family’s Medical History
What you’re looking for is trends. For instance, if you had a blood relative who died from a particular disease, yet that was the only time it occurred in your family, it may not be as much as a concern for you than anything else. Rather, trying to identify with consistent and similar problems between generations is key.
For example, if your grandmother, your mom, and aunt all have a history of depression, then it’s likely that you’ll struggle with it as well, particularly more so if you share their gender. Or, if your grandfather and dad both had asthma and heart-related problems, chances are high that you will need to be much more careful about your lifestyle.
That’s not to say that you don’t have any say in the matter– and genetic tendencies by no means guarantee that you’ll have the same health issues. Thus, you shouldn’t view these characteristics as death sentences or unavoidable eventualities.
Instead, look at them as guides or markers for how to address your personal health, and consider your genetic makeup if you are planning on starting a family of your own one day.
Fortunately, the generation of people who were born in the 80’s and 90’s are far more health-conscious than the generations prior. Today, we are much more aware of the negative impacts of less-than-healthy foods, and we more so understand the importance of exercise. By just being aware of our family’s medical history, we are able to do the best we can in order to avoid the same health issues that may have affected generations before us.
Knowing your roots and trends in the medical history of your family can not only help you plan how to live a healthy lifestyle, it can also help prepare you if (and when) you do ultimately have to approach these issues in your own health.
If you do identify certain health issues or diseases in your family’s medical history, you should implement diets and exercise routines that address those issues specifically. For example, if your family has a history of lower back pain and disc troubles, you will want to focus on strengthening the muscles around that area to decrease your risk of developing the same issues — plain and simple.
Likewise, if you have a long lineage of diabetics, you will need to be incredibly mindful of your sugar intake and make sure to keep exercise as a priority to further reduce your risk.
At the end of the day, your family’s medical history does matter, but that doesn’t mean that it should loom so much over your head that you become obsessed with it. That, in and of itself, is unhealthy.
Be aware, educate yourself, and maintain a reasonable amount of concern about what these things mean for your own health. If you know, you’ll be better equipped to avoid the problem entirely, especially considering the large body of medical knowledge we have at our disposal.
Tara Heath is a freelance writer who lives in California. She currently writes for Presidio Home Care’s Blog as well as other health and wellness sites. In her free time she stays active by playing tennis and running marathons.