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Using Family Trees to Find Out Your Family Medical History

By Charles Hopkins Published 01/19/2007 | Genealogy

Countless doctors around the world hold the exact same belief about many modern medical conditions if people better knew their family histories, they could be more easily treated for medical conditions that may arise later in life. Most of us however, are completely unaware of our familys medical history for generations beyond our grandparents. For the majority of people living in America today, our medical histories only extend to our parents parents, and the people beyond them are simply names of people who our older relatives bring up in clever anecdotes once in awhile during the holidays. But, if you want to be in tip top medical condition, sooner or later it would be to your advantage to learn your familys medical history, as it could even save your life in the long run.

Have you ever heard of hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol)? How about congenital heart disease?  Does breast cancer, Alzheimers or Parkinsons Disease ring a bell? All of these tragic illnesses have a very significant genetic factor to them that often goes undiagnosed until it is too late to be treatable.  People with many of these disorders are unable to survive them, but, according to many doctors, these diseases would be much more easily treatable if people had some knowledge of their familys medical history. So imagine that you suddenly knew that your great grandfather had heart disease. When one of your parents finds out that they have heart disease too, it should immediately alert you that the heart disease in your family is not simply because of a lack of diet or exercise but that it is genetic as well.  Knowing this, you should work harder at eating properly and exercising regularly so that you can greatly reduce your risk of developing heart disease as well effectively saving your life.

In order to find your familys medical history, you will have to develop a relatively well researched family tree.  Such a family tree will require that you get into contact with some of your older living relatives to determine who lived several generations before you. If you are lucky, your older relatives will even know how old their parents and grandparents were when they died and what they died from.  Now, provided that you know all of the facts about many of the older generation of people in your family, you can work on constructing your very own family tree.  However, with this family tree, you will want to add in any known illnesses and diseases that your relatives may have suffered from.  Once that is all taken care of, go through the family tree and make notes of whether or not each illness or disease was inherited (genetic) or acquired from some other source such as the persons working environment. All you really need to worry about are illnesses that are directly inheritable that were present in the family histories of people who are directly related to you. So, for example if your aunt who is of no blood relation to you has Alzheimers, you have no reason to worry about being afflicted with the disease because she is not related to you by blood.