Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Family medical history

When I go into doctor's offices, usually one of the forms they ask me to fill out has to do with family medical history.  I am fortunate to have extensive knowledge of my family medical history. I'm not sure if that's unique to my family, but it might be.  Many people (i.e., not LDS people) don't always know the names of their great-grandparents, much less some of the diseases they suffered from.

Some time ago, one of my grandmothers sent out a genealogy chart with dates of family members (births and deaths) and what they died from.  It was pretty amazing, if you think about it. 

Fortunately (or unfortunately for the doctor), that also means that I bring up this knowledge in the appointment.  And, I have almost all of the diseases at some point in my family history on one or both sides. Allergies, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, glaucoma, Alzheimers, high cholesterol, etc. etc.  Most doctors will remind me that usually, one's parents and siblings are the most important factors.  One's paternal great-grandmother's health history is useful, but not as useful.  And in the end, diseases aren't governed solely by our genetics, there are many other factors that might be involved.

Predictably, the doctors ask about the ages when various family members were's usually over the age of 50 and for many, over the age of 75.  So many family members have been fortunate enough to live long, healthy, productive lives. 

In other words, knowing that someone had gall bladder problems in their early's hard to say if this is an instance where information is useful, or immaterial.


kt moxie said...

That's really fascinating. It would be interesting to see if there's any "trends" in your family for illnesses, diseases, life spans, etc...

Aerin said...

Hi Kt - thanks. There are trends on the one side of the family - definitely for cancer. I believe my grandma and all of her siblings had some form of cancer during their life/lives. But, this hasn't reoccurred for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The theory is that there were many harmful chemicals on the farm where they grew up, which may have been cancer causing. That's my theory, anyway. Other than that, I've long thought the one side of my family would be awesome for genetic inheritance studies....there are just so many of us!