Monday, July 18, 2022

The Importance of Family History in Health Promotion



       Recently, I was talking to the child of one of my father's cousins who is about my age. It was interesting to see that we shared many things. She is intolerant to milk and shares a couple of the medical diagnoses that I do. On further discussion, I discovered that our grandparents and their children are remarkably consistent in the same medical issues with which my own family has coped. For the most part, many of them live into their nineties. This is interesting because it gives any physician who is following any of us a wealth of information. Since there are a number of physicians in the family dating back all the way to the Civil War, the family has been pretty good about conveying not only the medical histories, but the eventual causes of death throughout the family. Interestingly, very few physicians really ask about family medical history, and then they are often quick to dismiss it.  Although it is true that an individual may develop an illness that has not before been seen in that family group, much of the time, the family history does give important clues to the issues that may befall individuals in the present day.

                  Case in point, my own physicians have been especially obsessed with colonoscopies and mammograms looking for cancer, when no one in either branch of our family has ever had cancer.  However, we have a compelling history for persistent arrhythmia, even in the young, which caused the death of even the young, including my beloved youngest son at 12.   We also have a compelling history for persistent low Vitamin D.  It's taken many years for an endocrinologist to say that she believes that our family has a Vitamin D utilization disorder and that is why that regardless of supplementation, we still come up low, and require prescription doses of the vitamin along with regular surveillance via labwork.

                This is important because too many times our busy physicians play the odds. They expect us, as Americans, to die of coronary artery disease, cancer, or Type II diabetes.  Some of them are singularly focused on this triad.  Sadly, if you have something else, you may well die before it is detected.

                 This is a call to get your family medical history from the relatives you believe will be the best historians. Write this down and relate it to your physicians. If your physician brushes you off, then find another.  This is also true of mental health issues. The brain's difficulty in balancing dopamine, norepinephrine, GABA, etc. may well be hereditary, and under present technology is diagnosable and treatable.

                  The singular obsession with the big three, to the exclusion of the things that actually impact my own family, almost cost me my life.