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Family History

 

FAMILY HISTORY

How well do you know your family?

 

We mean, really know them--such as, what each parent, brother, sister, grandparent, and greatgrandparent, aunt, uncle, and cousin has or had in terms of medical conditions.

 

The surgeon general has launched an on line tool to help you get to know your family history.

 

The family history is one of the key, basic parts of a medical history.  But doctors don’t know how to take it, and patients don’t have the information to give to their doctors.

 

The surgeon general says, that’s a lost opportunity to literally save lives.

 

“I went to the doctor, the doctor told me you need a stress test a catheterization.”  It should have been no surprise to Steve Miller, age 47, that something was brewing in his coronary arteries. “Yes, I have a family history of heart disease and high blood pressure.”

 

family history is the name of the game.  “Everyone has the heart disease in the family if you are talking about 55 or less its present in about half of them,” says Dr. Samin Sharma, Director of the Cath Lab at Mt. Sinai Medical Center.

 

“Name a common disease where family history is not the number one risk factor.  You’d have a hard time,” states Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Human Genome Research Project.

 

Which is why here at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, an arm of the NIH, announced a major initiative to reach out to all Americans to get them to know their family history.

Employees here will serve as the first institution to participate in the on line family history gathering project.

 

The website--found at the hhs.gov website--walks anyone who wants to through gathering a family history and identifies whether someone is at risk for a particular disease.

 

“That is information that is rarely brought up in the interchange these days between a physician and a patient because everyone is in such a hurry.” States Dr. Collins.

 

It’s information which provides tremendous benefit to patients--when it’s actually obtained.  “The message for patients who have family history and preferably strong and heart disease in young age less than forty five or 55 years of age they should get thorough check up at an early age that means between 20 and 30 not at the age of fifty that could be to late by the time all the factors have let to significant heart disease,” says Dr. Sharma.

 

Head over to the computer and log onto  www.hhs.gov/familyhistory .  You could very well detect a disease that will occur as much as 20 years earlier than the average population. And you can do something to lower your risk of getting sick of dying from it, like getting earlier screening tests or changing one’s lifestyle.

 

Indeed, the family link is now a campaign for one cholesterol drug.

 

It’s so important in the eyes of healthcare experts that the surgeon general wants family history to be a topic for discussion over turkey this thursday.  Surgeon General Richard Carmona says, “As Grandma, Grandpa, Aunts and Uncles, all of the extended family come in, join up the geneology game and tracing back as far as you can, it really becomes a fun activity for the family because besides learning about medicine , you learn about your history and it really does help.”

 

And Thursday, Thanksgiving, is National Family History Day.  To celebrate, leave the in-laws arguing at the table and head over to the computer and log onto www.hhs.gov/familyhistory .  You could very well detect a disease that will occur as much as 20 years earlier than the average population.  And,  you can do something to lower your risk of getting sick of dying from it, like getting earlier screening tests or changing one’s lifestyle.

 

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