Why is it Important to Know My Family Health History?

Family Health History: Why It’s Important and What You Should Know
Why is it important to know my family history?

by Kimberly Holland

Family members share more than similar appearance. You may recognize that you have your father’s curly hair or your mother’s button nose. Thank goodness my kids got my wife’s food looks. What is not so easy to see is that your great-grandmother passed along an increased risk for both breast and ovarian cancer.

That’s why discovering and knowing your family health history is vitally important. Your medical history includes all the traits your family shares you can’t see. These traits may increase your risk for many hereditary conditions and diseases, including:

• cancer
• diabetes
• asthma
• heart disease and blood clots
• Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
• arthritis
• depression
• high blood pressure and high cholesterol

Whose history do I need?

The general rule for family health history is that more is better. First, you’ll want to focus on immediate family members who are related to you through blood. Start with your parents, siblings, and children. If they’re still alive, grandparents are another great place to start. They may know partial histories of many members of your family.

You can also gather information from your aunts and uncles, and other blood relatives. Once you move beyond this core circle of family, genetic makeups change so greatly that you may not be able to learn much about your own risk. Still, keep information handy for any family members you learn about during your search for medical history. It may be helpful down the road.

How can I gather this information?

Talking about health may not come naturally to you or your family. You can start the conversation by letting your family members know why you want to gather health information. Also, let them know that you’re willing to share information with them, so that you can all have more complete health histories. It may be easier to start out by having one-on-one conversations.

Get the right information

When you’re ready to gather family health history information, keep these things in mind:

Major medical issues: Ask about every major medical issue anyone in close relation to you has been diagnosed with. In this fact-finding stage, nothing is too small, though issues are only significant if the cause was genetic. Lyme disease, injuries, and other things caused by external factors can’t be inherited.
Causes of death: Find out the cause of death for any family members who’ve passed away. That might provide a clue to your family medical history, too.
Age of onset: Ask when each family member was diagnosed with each condition. This may help your doctor recognize the early onset of certain diseases.
Ethnic background: Different ethnicities have varying levels of risk for certain conditions. As best you can, identify your ethnic background to help spot potential health risks.
Environment: Families share common genes, but they also share common environments, habits, and behaviors. A complete family history also includes understanding what factors in your environment could impact your health.

5 questions to ask

Here are some questions you can ask to start the conversation:

  1. How old was my relative when they died, and what was the cause of death?
  2. Are there health problems that run in the family?
  3. Is there a history of pregnancy loss or birth defects in my family?
  4. What allergies do people in my family have?
  5. What is my ethnicity? (Some conditions are common among certain ethnicities.)

What should I do with this information?

Knowing your own health history is important, and sharing it with your doctor may be more important. That’s because your doctor can help you interpret what it means for your current lifestyle, suggest prevention tips, and decide on screening or testing options for conditions you may be more at risk for developing.

The genes you’re born with can’t be changed or altered. If you know your family history, you’re one step ahead of the game. You can take the initiative to adopt healthier lifestyle habits. For example, you could decide to stop smoking or drinking alcohol, or to start exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight. These lifestyle changes may reduce your chances for developing hereditary conditions.

Is incomplete information still useful?

Even a family health history that’s incomplete is still useful to your doctor. Share any information you have with them.

For example, if you know that your sibling was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 35, your doctor may suspect a possible genetic issue. They may then decide it’s important that you have regular colon cancer screenings before the recommended age of 50. Your doctor may also suggest you undergo genetic counseling or testing to identify any genetic risks.

What if I was adopted

Environment plays an important part in your health history, and you can get the details for this from your adoptive family. Learning more about your birth family’s health history may require a large investment of time and energy.

Ask your adoptive parents if they have any information about your birth parents. It’s possible family health history information was shared during the adoption process. If not, ask the agency that arranged the adoption if they retained any personal health history information for your birth parents. Understand your state’s statutes before you begin requesting adoption history information.

If all of these avenues come up short, you may need to make a choice about seeking out your birth parents. You may not wish to pursue that route, or you may be unable to connect with them. In that case, alert your doctor to your personal history. The two of you can then work to identify ways to screen for and detect your risk of certain conditions.

What if I’m estranged from my family?

If you’re estranged from only part of your family, you can try a few things to collect your family health history:

Talk to the family members you’re connected with. You may not need to reconnect with your whole family to collect your family health history.
Reach out via your doctor. Some medical offices may be able to send out questionnaires to family members asking for information in an official capacity. This may prompt people to respond.

Do some research. You may be able to discover the cause of death of your relatives from death certificates. Search online to find state-specific death records or check ancestry sites for this information. Obituaries, often available online or archived by public libraries, might also provide health information.

What about genetic testing and genetic predisposition?

Certain ethnic backgrounds and races may be predisposed to conditions for which a genetic test is useful. For example, women of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry have an increased risk for breast cancer. A specific gene mutation is more common in these women than in other women. Genetic screening may help your doctor detect this gene mutation and prepare you for treatment options early.

Although genetic tests can help identify potential risks you may have inherited for a specific disease, they don’t guarantee you’ll develop that disease. Results may show you have a predisposition to several conditions. While you may never actually develop any of these, you might feel the added anxiety isn’t worth the knowledge. Seriously consider the benefits and concerns you may have with knowing your genetic risk factors before you do any testing.

How do I record the details?

Make sure you write down or electronically document the health information your relatives provide. You can use HealthLynked for this. Just complete one profile per family member whose medical records you are responsible for and have other family members complete and share their own with you.

Outlook

Knowing your health history helps you to be more proactive about your health. Share this information with your doctor so they can screen early for conditions you’re predisposed to and suggest lifestyle choices that can help reduce your risk.



Also talk to your doctor if you need more help figuring out how to uncover your health history or what questions you should ask. If you don’t have one you depend on today, you might find a great physician using the first of its kind social ecosystem designed specifically for everything described in the article.

Ready to get Lynked? Go to HealthLynked.com now to start compiling your medical history and sharing with those you choose, for Free, today!

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The Birth of “No One Dies Alone”

Sandra Clarke, R.N., shares her story on the experience that created the spark of inspiration to create the No One Dies Alone program. Learn more about the Center for Innovation at http://mayocl.in/19CLaR6 and read our blog post about NODA at http://mayocl.in/GPVNtU.

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Genes linked with sunburn, skin cancer risk

 

May 8, 2018

Certain genes can determine which people are more at risk of getting sunburn and possibly develop skin cancer as a result..

In a trawl of the genetics of nearly 180,000 people of European ancestry in Britain, Australia, the Netherlands and United States, researchers found 20 sunburn genes.

Eight of the genes had been associated with skin cancer in previous research, according to findings published in the journal Nature Communications.

And in at least one region of the genome, “we have found evidence to suggest that the gene involved in melanoma risk… acts through increasing susceptibility to sunburns,” co-author Mario Falchi of King’s College London told AFP.

Sun exposure is critical for the body’s production of vitamin D, which keeps bones, teeth, and muscles healthy, and which scientists say may help stave off chronic diseases, even cancer.

But too much can be painful in the short-term, and dangerous for your health.

The new study, which claims to be the largest to date into the genetics of sunburn, helps explain why people with the same skin tone can have such different reactions to exposure to sunlight—some burn red while others tan brown.

It may also begin to explain factors in skin cancer risk.
“It is necessary to explore these genes in more detail, to understand the mechanism by which they contribute to propensity to burn,” said Falchi.

In future, the research may help identify people at risk, through genetic testing.

“People tend to ‘forget’ that sunburns are quite dangerous,” said Falchi.

“Given the rise in incidence in skin cancer, we hope that knowing there is a genetic link between sunburn and skin cancer may help in encouraging people to lead a healthy lifestyle.”

More information: Genome-wide association study in 176,678 Europeans reveals genetic loci for tanning response to sun exposure, Nature Communications (2018).
nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/s41467-018-04086-y
Journal reference: Nature Communications

Millennials aren’t getting the message about sun safety and the dangers of tanning

Many millennials lack knowledge about the importance of sunscreen and continue to tan outdoors in part because of low self-esteem and high rates of narcissism that fuel addictive tanning behavior, a new study from Oregon State University-Cascades has found.

Lead author Amy Watson and her colleagues found that those with higher levels of self-esteem were less likely to tan, while those with lower self-esteem and higher levels of narcissism were more likely to present addictive tanning behavior. The motivation for the addictive tanning behavior was the perception of improved appearance.

“This study gives us a clearer understanding of actual consumer behavior,” said Watson, an assistant professor of marketing at OSU-Cascades. “The number of people still deliberately exposing their skin to the sun for tanning purposes is alarming. We need to find new ways to entice people to protect their skin, including challenging the ideal of tan skin as a standard of beauty.”

The findings were published recently in the Journal of Consumer Affairs. Co-authors are Gail Zank and Anna M. Turri of Texas State University.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer worldwide, with more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed annually. Melanoma cases among women rose sharply between 1970 and 2009, with an 800 percent increase among women 18 to 39.

In an effort to improve consumer education about the role of sunscreen in the prevention of skin cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration developed a new “Drug Facts” panel of information now required on all sunscreen bottles. The panel includes directions for sunscreen use and advice on other sun protection measures, among other information.

The researchers’ goal with the study was to gauge whether the information on this new label is effective at curbing tanning behavior and if new information is helping to increase consumer knowledge about how and when to use sunscreen and how much to use.

The study of 250 college students, most between 18 and 23 years old, measured their sun safety knowledge and included: questions about their beliefs regarding sunscreen effectiveness and ultraviolet light exposure danger; questions about tanning motivation and behavior; an assessment of tanning addiction; and personality questions relating to self-esteem, narcissism, appearance and addictive behavior.

The study participants, 47 percent male and 53 percent female, scored an average of 54 percent on an 11-question sun safety knowledge test, which included true/false statements such as: “On a daily basis I should use at least one ounce of sunscreen on exposed skin” (true); and “When applied correctly, SPF 100 is twice as effective as SPF 50” (false).

About 70 percent of the study participants reported purposefully exposing their skin to the sun to achieve a tan. About a third of the participants reported that having a tan is important to them, while about 37 percent said they feel better with a tan, and 41 percent indicated that having a tan makes them more confident in their appearance

The participants’ levels of tanning addiction were measured through questions such as “I get annoyed when people tell me not to tan,” and “I continue to tan knowing that it is bad for me,” and “I feel unattractive or anxious to tan if I do not maintain my tan.”

The researchers found that those with lower self-esteem and higher narcissism rates were also more likely to exhibit addictive tanning behavior. They found no evidence that increased knowledge about sun safety leads to lower levels of addictive tanning.

“What we found is that this knowledge doesn’t matter to the consumers,” Watson said. “That tactic to require sunscreen manufacturers to include this information is not effective.”

Sun safety and sunscreen messaging from the CDC is all statistics-based, emphasizing the likelihood of a skin cancer occurrence or diagnosis, Watson said. But that type of message isn’t resonating with millennials. The next step for Watson and her colleagues is to begin testing other types of messages to identify ways millennials would respond more positively to sun safety measures.

“People are starting to get the message about the dangers of using tanning beds, but a large number of people are still tanning outdoors, deliberately exposing their skin to the sun, because they think it’s attractive,” she said.

“We need to move away from the narrative where tan skin is associated with health and youth. That’s the opposite of reality. Because reality is tan skin is damaged skin.”

More information: Amy Watson et al, I Know, but I Would Rather Be Beautiful: The Impact of Self-Esteem, Narcissism, and Knowledge on Addictive Tanning Behavior in Millennials, Journal of Consumer Affairs (2018). DOI: 10.1111/joca.12179
Provided by: Oregon State University

11 Ways Laughter IS the Best Medicine, and It IS Contagious !

Do you remember that last time you had a good, hearty, deep from your very soul laugh? For my family, it was last night while we enjoyed fireworks with friends over the lake in anticipation of the 4th of July celebration. Josh Billings said, “Laughter is the fireworks of the soul”; and great wisdom can be found in Proverb (17:22): “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”

There are tremendous health benefits found in laughing – it strengthens your immune system, triggers the release of endorphins that lift your mood, helps protect your heart, diminishes pain and protects you by reducing effects of stress.

One of the best feelings in the world is that deep belly laugh – to have one and even to hear it in others. While the ability to laugh is a powerful health resource, mentally, emotionally and physically. it can also bring people together and establish amazing connections. Everything from a slight giggle to a side-splitting guffaw can change the atmosphere of a room from chilly unfamiliarity to warm and family-like. Studies have shown a strong, positive bond is created when we laugh with one another.

So, when was the last time you found yourself laughing out loud? Hopefully, you are one of the fortunate ones that has enjoyed the delights of laughing recently – and the powerful preventive benefits its joy offers. There is so much to love about laughter and many ways it promotes wellness and wellbeing in everyday life, at home, work and at play.

What is laughter?

While the brain mechanisms behind laughing (and smiling) remain a mystery, it is often a spontaneous response to humor or other visual, auditory, or emotional stimuli. And, too, it can occur on command—as either voluntary or contrived.

When we laugh, air is forced through the vocal cords as a result of chest wall contractions, in particular from the diaphragm. It is often followed by a deep inspiration of air. Thus, laughter recruits a number of muscles—respiratory, laryngeal, and facial. And when “exuberant,” it can also involve the arms and legs.

When do humans begin laughing?

Our first laugh typically occurs between 3 to 4 months of age—even before we learn to speak! It is believed that a baby’s laugh serves as a way to communicate, bond, and, too, explore sound and vocalization.
There is already so much to love for laughter that it seems greedy to look for more, but that’s exactly what researchers Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan at the Loma Linda University in California have done. These two doctors have researched the benefits of laughter and found amazing results.

1. Lowers blood pressure
People who lower their blood pressure, even those who start at normal levels, will reduce their risk of stroke and heart attack. So, grab the Sunday paper, flip to the funny pages, and enjoy your laughter medicine, or pull up the latest memes in social media. Of even better, watch your favorite funny movie, or check out these YouTube posts from LucidChart.

2. Reduces stress hormone levels
By reducing the level of stress hormones, you’re simultaneously cutting the anxiety and stress that impacts your body. Additionally, the reduction of stress hormones may result in higher immune system performance. Just think: Laughing along as a co-worker tells a funny joke can relieve some of the day’s stress and help you reap the health benefits of laughter.

Psychologically, having a good sense of humor—and applying it by laughing—may permit us to have a better perspective on things by seeing situations in a “more realistic and less threatening light.” Physically, laughter can put a damper on the production of stress hormones—cortisol and epinephrine—as well as trigger the release of endorphins. Endorphins are our body’s natural painkillers and can boost our mood. And, too, it has been shown that a good LOL or ROTFL — texting slang for “laugh out loud” or “rolling on the floor laughing” — can relax our muscles for up to 45 minutes after.

3. Works your abs
One of the benefits of laughter is that it can help you tone your abs. When you are laughing, the muscles in your stomach expand and contract, similar to when you intentionally exercise your abs. Meanwhile, the muscles you are not using to laugh are getting an opportunity to relax. Add laughter to your ab routine and make getting a toned tummy more enjoyable.

4. Improves cardiac health
Laughter is a great cardio workout, especially for those who are incapable of doing other physical activity due to injury or illness. It gets your heart pumping and burns a similar number of calories per hour as walking at a slow to moderate pace. So, laugh your heart into health.

The American Heart Association states that laughter can help our hearts. Research shows that by decreasing stress hormones, we can see a decrease in blood pressure as well as artery inflammation and bad cholesterol levels. Elevated blood pressure forces our heart to work harder in order to generate the force needed to pump against the increased resistance. And inflammation and high cholesterol contribute to the development of fatty plaques that decrease blood flow to the heart, or, even, complete blockage that can cause a heart attack.

5. Boosts T-cells
T-cells are specialized immune system cells just waiting in your body for activation. When you laugh, you activate T-cells that immediately begin to help you fight off sickness. Next time you feel a cold coming on, add chuckling to your illness prevention plan.

6. Triggers the release of endorphins
Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers. By laughing, you can release endorphins, which can help ease chronic pain and make you feel good all over.

7. Produces a general sense of well-being
Laughter can increase your overall sense of well-being. Doctors have found that people who have a positive outlook on life tend to fight diseases better than people who tend to be more negative. Smile, laugh, and live longer!

8. Improves bonding
There has been much written that laughter is not primarily about humor, but, instead, social relationships. When we laugh, we create a positive emotional climate and a sense of connection between two people. In fact, with romantic partners, shared laughter—when you laugh together—is an indicator of relationship well-being, in that it enhances closeness and perceptions of partner supportiveness.

9. Can shed pounds
In a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers found that 15 minutes of genuine laughter burns up to 40 calories, depending on the individual’s body weight and laughter intensity. While this cannot replace aerobic physical activity, 15 minutes of daily LOL, over the course of a year, could result in up to 4 fewer pounds.

10. Enhances our ability to fight off germs
Laughter increases the production of antibodies—proteins that surveillance for foreign invaders—as well as a number of other immune system cells. And, in doing so, we are strengthening our body’s defenses against germs. Additionally, it is a well-known fact that stress weakens our immune system. And because laughing alleviates our body’s stress response, it can help dampen its ill-effects.

11. A natural pain-killer
The iconic Charlie Chaplin stated: “Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.” Although Mr. Chaplin probably meant this figuratively, laughter can literally relieve pain by stimulating our bodies to produce endorphins — natural painkillers. Laughter may also break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders. The best part: You do not need a prescription and there are no known side-effects.

Is it contagious?

Yes. The saying “laugh and the whole world laughs with you” is not just figurative, it is literal. When we hear laughter, it triggers an area in our brain that is involved in moving the muscles in our face, almost like a reflex. This is one of the reasons television sitcoms have laugh tracks—a separate soundtrack that contains the sound of audience laughter. We are more likely to find the joke or situation funny and chuckle, giggle, or guffaw.

How to use laughter to heal and uplift.

Laughter is a physical expression of pleasant emotions among human beings. It is preceded by what one sees, hears or feels. When shared, it serves to connect people and increases intimacy and is a good anti-stress medicine.

LOL or lol, has become a very popular element of internet communications and texting in expressing great amusement in a chat. As well, according to research, the smiling and “tears of joy” laughing emoji faces are tops in digital communications. Their usage is so widespread and so common, that we now actually have data that demonstrates that the use and placement of emojis carries an emotional weight which impacts our perception of the messages that frame these icons (understanding the mental states of others is crucial to communication). And yes, in today’s busy world we may be utilizing =D and LOL’s at every turn, but let’s lean in to the hilarious and enjoy the good, hearty health benefits of laughter.

And remember, know when not to laugh. Laughter at the expense of others or in hurtful situations is inappropriate.

Now, make a commitment to laugh more.

In his book, The Travelers Gift, Andy Andrews challenges the traveler to start each day with laughter within moments of waking. It changes your whole being, even if you only laugh for seven seconds. I have tried it. I have faked it, and even as I start with the fake laugh, I can’t stop after seven seconds.

Practice laughing by beginning with a smile and then enact a laugh. Although it may feel contrived at first, with practice, it will likely become spontaneous. At Laughter University (yes, there is one) they encourage at least 30 seconds. There is so much going on around us that is laughable!

We can also move towards laughter by being with those who laugh and return the favor by making them laugh. And, too, surround ourselves with children and pets. On average, children laugh 300 times a day! And we know that laughter is contagious. Studies have shown people are immensely happier just seeing a picture of a dog!

Even make an effort to find the humor in an unpleasant situation, especially with situations that are beyond our control.

For all this, you will be made glad. Laughter wipes away stress, decreases blood pressure, burns calories, alleviates pain, connects us to others, reinvigorates us with hope, helps ward off germs … (the list goes on) – and feels soooo good. LOL for better health, connection and joy!

Want to find a physician who tickles your funny bone or at least knows where it is?  Find them in the fastest growing HealthCare ecosystem around.

HealthLynked is the first of its kind network designed to connect patients with their physicians for a higher purpose – Improving HealthCare!

Ready to get Lynked?  Got to HealthLynked.com to sign up for free!

Sources:
Gaiam.com
laughteronlineuniveristy,com
Dr. Nina Radcliff, Laugh, giggle, be joyful — for lol; ‘The fireworks of the soul’. Washington Post

A Day Above Mayo Clinic Rochester, Minnesota

As part of the world’s largest integrated group medical practice in the world, Mayo Medical Laboratories and the 3,200 employees of the Mayo Clinic Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology support every stage of the continuum of care. To support the practice, we have laboratories in more than 19 buildings throughout Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus. Here is a quick tour of Mayo Clinic from above.

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Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Amit Sood Talks about Stress and Resiliency

Mayo Clinic stress management and resiliency expert, Dr. Amit Sood, discusses how stress is connected to a wandering mind, and how stress in the 21st century is unique. He shares a glimpse of his new book, The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, which draws on decades of groundbreaking research to offer readers a scientifically-proven, structured, and practical approach to reducing stress. In this easy-to-follow guide, Dr. Sood provides actionable steps to cultivate emotional and mental strength, find greater fulfillment, and nurture a kind disposition.

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Make the Difference: Preventing Medical Trainee Suicide

Pressure in the high-stakes environment of medical training can be overwhelming. This video from Mayo Clinic and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention explains how everyone can help prevent suicide by being alert for the signs of depression and escaping stress and how to be most helpful.

Learn more about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at https://afsp.org/.

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