Family can have a profound affect on your health, in more than one way. When we think of family we usually think of family history. Every doctor asks those questions: Has anyone in your family had heart problems? Diabetes? Suffered from depression, allergies, skin disorders? Three or four pages of that and you’re wondering if you’ll live through the paperwork. Yet history isn’t the only consideration. Genetics play an important role, but day to day stress can also have a huge impact on your health.
Genetics and Family History
It’s not possible to list the number of conditions and ailments where genetic makeup puts you at an increased risk and what that might mean, so let’s talk about a few common ailments. Did you know that the number one killer of American women is heart disease, and not breast cancer? It’s a pretty common misconception. Heart disease accounts for 27.2% of female deaths.
Family history of heart disease is one risk factor. Others include age (it’s more common in post-menopausal women), smoking, cholesterol -high LDL (the bad kind) and low HDL, the good kind, high blood pressure, lack of exercise, obesity, poorly controlled diabetes, and stress. Even if no one in your family has had heart problems, you should get regular Heart Disease Indicator Tests and have your cholesterol checked now and then.
Diabetes is another issue, and it’s running rampant in this country. Genetics are important, but they don’t account for the number of people being diagnosed. The same issues that influence heart disease increase the chances you’ll get diabetes. A regular blood test every year that includes a diabetes screening is wise.
Another way your family affects your health is in day-to-day well-being. Emotional health has been proven over and over to have an influence on your overall health. Back in the 90’s, the CDC teamed up with a health insurer to survey more than 17,000 plan participants. They were each asked eight questions about childhood abuse or dysfunctional family dynamics. More than half indicated they had suffered from this type of childhood trauma.
Those who had suffered a stressful childhood were 50 times more likely to have adverse health conditions as adults. The adverse health conditions were all over the map: heart disease, diabetes, obesity, alcoholism, prone to fractures, and more. Children from stressful homes were simply more likely to get hurt or sick.
What does that mean to you? Stress is a common factor in many diseases on the CDC’s top 10 hit list of major causes of death. Most women are under a lot of pressure at home. Raising kids, making sure they do well in school, balancing the budget, working and finding time for the family. It’s a lot of pressure, and that may put women at higher risk for potentially deadly health conditions. So do yourself and your family a favor. Find some time to relax, get enough sleep and exercise, eat a healthy diet, and get a health screening every year to ensure everything’s on track. You have grandchildren to spoil one day. And you know, if you’re less stressed out, even your children will be healthier.