Getting Healthy: Know Your Family Health History

review health history doctorIn this new year, there’s an important topic to discuss at the dinner table: your family health history. It’s vital to understand your family’s medical history, which in turn, will allow you to be more in control of your own health, as well as the health of your children.

For example, according to the American Stroke Association, a risk of a stroke may be greater if a parent, grandparent, sister or brother has had a stroke. Specifically, a stroke can often be a symptom of a genetic disorder, much like CADASIL (Cerebral Autosomal Dominant Arteriopathy with Sub-cortical Infarcts and Leukoencephalopathy). Individuals suffering from CADASIL usually have a family history of the disorder, and each child of a CADASIL parent has a 50% chance of inheriting the disease.

By educating yourself on your family health history, such as heart disease, cancer and strokes, not only will you be more prone to catch disorders before they happen (or worsen), but you also strengthen your chances of avoiding medical errors if or when you do need to see a doctor. Simply put, the more you know and understand, the more you can reveal to your physician — learn the past to create a healthy future.

Why Is It Important to Know Your Family’s Medical History?

Did you make resolutions to get healthier in 2017? If you want to take more control of your health, then don’t be afraid to start a conversation regarding the topic. In doing so, you can help ensure that doctors have the proper information to make accurate diagnoses for you, and even your children.

Revealing facts about the illnesses or diseases suffered by your parents and grandparents, doctors may be able to predict what’s in store for your future, or the future of your children. Specifically, becoming aware of your family’s medical history can assist in:

  • Identifying various disease risk factors
  • Taking preemptive measures
  • Avoiding misdiagnoses or medical errors

What Are the Most Common Genetic Disorders?

Doctor explaining detailsIt’s no surprise that common diseases are often passed through parents and grandparents. However, if your doctor is informed about a disease early on, then he or she may be able to recommend steps to either reduce the risk, or lessen its severity. Diseases that often run in families include:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Obesity

Not only should you be concerned with diseases, but genetic disorders, too, as they are also hereditary. These common genetic disorders include:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Down syndrome
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Becker muscular dystrophy
  • Bloom’s syndrome

How Can You and Your Family Benefit?

Because not all diseases that are present in your family health history are genetic or hereditary, it’s important to have a conversation. If you touched on these topics over the holidays, it’s a great time to reach back out and have a clear conversation with a goal of understanding what ailments are more likely to appear for you and your family, and the same goes for a spouse or partner.

When you have the conversation, be sure to write down notes, and set up an appointment to meet with your doctor for a checkup. During this time, the two of you can discuss options and potential preventive measures to protect yourself.

To stay as healthy as possible, it’s imperative to get the right diagnosis from your doctor. You can help by relaying your family health history tree to your physician. While you take precautions, a misdiagnosis or medical error that results in a delayed diagnosis may still be possible.

How Can You Avoid Misdiagnosis?

According to a 2009 report funded by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 28 percent of 583 diagnostic mistakes reported anonymously by doctors were life-threatening, or had resulted in death or permanent disability.

Unfortunately, doctors and medical professionals may not offer a level of care they would like to due to health insurance restraints. Medical tests costs money, and when a multi-billion dollar insurance company controls what you can and cannot provide for medical care, ailments, such as cancer, get missed.

You must aggressively ask questions for the sake of you and your family. Insisting that tests be performed, getting a second opinion and remaining persistent will work to your benefit.

When You Need an Advocate

For many who took their first doctor’s diagnosis, they may have fallen into the 28% (or more) who were misdiagnosed leading to more aggressive medical procedures, extended periods of recovery, a permanent disability as a result of medical treatment or an unfortunate loss of life.

If you or someone you know has been misdiagnosed, it should not have happened. Its reasons are likely due to the negligence of an insurance company who prevented the proper medical testing. We understand that this is outrageously wrong.

If you need the advice of an attorney, our team at The Oshman Firm is available when you are ready. We offer a no-cost, no-obligation consultations, and you can reach out to us today to have your questions answered. Our toll-free number is (800) 400-8182; our local number is (212) 233-2100. Call us today. We are here to help.

Ted Oshman


Ted Oshman has been with The Oshman Firm since 1988 serving clients for over 25 years. Learn more about Ted's background and featured practice areas here.

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