Coping with your family’s medical history

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The holidays are a time when you see family member that aren't part of your daily routine, so while everyone is together it's a good time to ask about family history. More specifically, ask about your family's medical history.

Dr. Diana Bitner, a nationally recognized menopause specialist from Spectrum Health, explains what questions you should ask, and how to cope with the information.

There are nine basic areas of wellness to keep an eye on:

  • Ability to be active
  • Obesity
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Ease of coping and mood disorders
  • Ovarian function
  • Bone health
  • Heart and vascular health
  • Income security

Each of these areas impacts our future and how we're able to age. By knowing how members in the family did in these areas of health, it will help you create a plan to be as healthy as possible now, and prepare you for what might happen in the future.

Cancer is an example; if you know that members in the family have had breast cancer, you can get screened early and find possible treatments to prevent it from spreading. Not all cancers have the genetic link , but it's worth talking to a doctor about.

Coping with this knowledge is a skill based on genetics of brain chemicals, but also based on exposure to good role models making healthy lifestyle choices. If we see people in our family making good choices about a healthy diet and exercise for example, we're more likely to follow in their footsteps.  However, the same can be said about making decisions that aren't so good for you.

People cope in different ways on how they handle the information of their family history or diagnosis. Some people get through the diagnosis easier than others, but by making good choices in their lifestyle they:

  1. Believe they deserve to be healthy and happy, and are worth the effort.
  2. Are able to ask for help and ask questions when they don't know something.
  3. Maintain a good support network by staying in touch with family and friends. They aren't afraid to talk to someone when they're struggling.

So when you see the family over the holidays, ask about your family history in all the areas of wellness, see how they cope with their condition, and be ready to hear information that could change your life.

Dr. Bitner's office is located at 3800 Lake Michigan Drive Northwest, Suite A. To schedule an appointment with her, call (616) 267-8225.

All information was provided by Dr. Diana Bitner and her blog. Read more.

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