Posted by: wortix | February 24, 2009

Family medical history can help predict health risk

>>> Consult online with doctors this issue or
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By Carrie A. Zabel, M.S., C.G.C.

This week we’ll help you decipher what in your family medical history could be cause for concern and what’s not. If you don’t feel comfortable interpreting the information on your own, a consultation with a genetics professional may be warranted. You can find a genetic counselor at the National Society of Genetic Counselors.

To accurately assess your health risk for disease based upon your family medical history, you must first sort out the diseases which are known to run in families such as high blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers, diabetes, mental illness, osteoporosis, arthritis, and obesity. Second, you can assess the level of risk for these conditions based on several factors including:

  • The number of relatives with the same or a related condition
  • The age when the conditions were diagnosed
  • Other environmental risk factors which may have contributed to the development of disease (i.e. lung cancer in a heavy smoker)
  • Whether the condition appears to be passed on in multiple generations

Individuals who have several generations of relatives diagnosed at an early age with no other environmental risk factors (i.e. negative health behaviors) are more likely to have a higher risk to also develop that disease. Some studies suggest that your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and/or colon cancer may be 2-5 times the risk of the general population, depending on your family medical history.

“Early age” can be defined as:

  • Diabetes prior to age 20
  • High blood pressure prior to age 40
  • Breast, colon or prostate cancer diagnosed prior to age 50
  • Stroke prior to age 60

A genetics professional will assist you to interpret your family medical history information, review screening or medical management guidelines, and discuss positive health behaviors which may lower your risk for disease.

For more information on genetic counselors, common diseases that run in families, screening and lifestyle factors, and an electronic tool to collect your family history, please visit the sites below.

And please share your thoughts and experiences with us.

>>> Consult online with doctors this issue or
any other healthcare issue at

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