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Know your family history: Understand generational health

Featured photo: Dr. Aisha Harris, courtesy of Dr. Aisha Harris

By Dr. Aisha Harris

Does your family talk about health problems? Do you know some of the types of medications your parents or siblings are on? Often times people have no idea about their family medical history and are surprised when they develop a problem that has been present in their family for generations.

It is helpful to discuss family medical problems so people can know their medical risks. Additionally, knowing family medical problems can help provide a support system when trying to manage and treat various diseases and problems, whether diabetes, cancer or post-surgery. Or helpful to provide clarity in an emergency when you are not able to speak for or advocate for yourself.

Not all medical problems are genetically linked, but common lifestyles and environments can significantly impact the health outcomes of an individual and a family. People do not need to share everything, but it is extremely helpful for families to talk about some of their health problems like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression and major surgeries. Having a discussion can improve prevention efforts, disease management, awareness and quality of life.

Some family genetics can cause you to have increased risk of different health problems. High blood pressure can present at a younger age because of family history. Preventative measures can be taken to stop heart attacks and heart disease from developing in younger generations in the family. And timing of screenings for colon cancer are linked to the results and history from immediate family members screenings. Overall, those things that “run” in the family should be common knowledge so that generational health and wealth can be established.

Please talk! Family medical history includes both physical and mental health medical problems. It makes a huge difference to be aware of additional health risks and can be motivating to improve your overall health status because changes made today will impact your future self.

Knowing your family history allows you to have the tools to advocate for your family and yourself. Understanding your risks will improve your health experience and outcomes. So, talk to your family and share enough where people can support you and be informed about their own risks. Encourage your family to share some of their medical history so others can be better prepared and equipped to improve their own health status.

Dr. Aisha Harris is a Flint native and board-certified family medicine doctor at Harris Family Health in Flint, Michigan where she cares for adults and children. Learn more about Harris Family Health by visiting www.harrisfamilyhealth.com. Feel free to submit health questions to Dr Harris via theflintcourier@gmail.com.

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