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Holiday Family Gatherings an Opportunity to Ask About Health History

Folks can ask family members when they developed symptoms of heart disease or stroke to better prepare themselvs and future health needs. (OakleyOriginals/Flickr)
Folks can ask family members when they developed symptoms of heart disease or stroke to better prepare themselvs and future health needs. (OakleyOriginals/Flickr)
December 20, 2018

SEATTLE – Families are getting together for the holiday season, and these gatherings can be opportunities for folks to ask about their family health history.

A person's chance of heart disease or stroke can increase if those afflictions run in the family.

That's important to know because heart disease is the number one killer and stroke the number five killer in the United States.

Tahirih Brown found out in her early 30s that she had a condition that causes high blood pressure, and didn't know about her family's health history.

On a few occasions, high blood pressure sent Brown to the emergency room. She says family history can help people prepare for diseases that might affect them down the road.

"I had no idea that high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart disease,” she states. “I had no idea.

“So knowing your history and just being aware of all the conditions and things to look out for and things to talk to your own doctor about are great."

The American Heart Association suggests asking immediate family members about heart disease or stroke, and when they developed these diseases.

The group also notes there are other factors beyond genetics that increase a person's risk.

African-Americans face higher risks of heart disease, diabetes and stroke, and Hispanics face a greater risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Dr. Emun Abdu, a neurosurgeon at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland, says if a certain disease is strong in a person's family history, doctors can start screening for it earlier in one's life.

She notes that everyone, regardless of his or her history, needs to live a healthy lifestyle in order to avoid these diseases or making them worse.

"Majority of patients, it's poorly controlled diabetes and stuff, and maybe you're pre-diabetic and you didn't control it with your diet initially, right?” she points out. “You don't go from no diabetes to poorly controlled, right? It's a gradual thing."

Brown says now that she's mindful of her high blood pressure, she's able to help out other family members.

"I have a cousin who in the past five years got diagnosed with high blood pressure as well,” she relates. “So I feel like since I've gone through something already with it, I'm able to be a good resource for her and really be a good support system to help encourage her to make good choices to help manage her blood pressure."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA