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FIRST-PERSON: God’s design of families includes genetic realities

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Loving relationships and strong ties to those we care most about are vital to a healthy lifestyle. But God’s gift of family is not only a relational bond but also a genetic bond.

If you’re interested in discovering potential health issues that may be in your future, it’s a good idea to consult your family tree. Use times with extended family to get some of the older members to discuss your family history. Not only will you discover some interesting stories to pass along to future generations, you can also learn what conditions and diseases have run in your family for several generations. This can offer good information and insight into your own health both present and future.

I recently was reunited with a great aunt who is 95 years old. Aunt Lily has been in our family through marriage for a long time and knew both of my grandparents and my great-grandparents on my father’s side. She shared information with me about how they died and I discovered that heart disease is very prominent in my family. Six relatives of mine have died from heart attacks. My father and his brother both survived heart attacks and currently battle heart disease.

Knowing this, I am very motivated to continue to live a healthy lifestyle of choosing low-fat healthy foods and exercising regularly. Heart disease is a reality for me and without proper intervention I could get it too.

To get a start on your family health history, you would want to ask questions like:

— Has anyone in your family died of a heart attack before age 55?

— Has anyone in your family had cancer? If so, what type, what was the treatment and prognosis, and did the cancer come back in another form?

— Does anyone in your family (past or present) have diabetes, high cholesterol or chronically high blood pressure? These conditions could be either lifestyle-related or genetic. Some very health-conscious people have inherited higher blood pressure and must monitor it with medications and a healthy lifestyle.

— Were there birth defects in past generations where children died in infancy? This may be a painful subject, but sometimes genetic defects skip generations. If you are of childbearing age, this information can be shared with your doctor so he/she can take that into consideration during your pregnancy.

— Are birthmarks, moles or physical abnormalities common in your family? Crooked pinkies and moles are very common in my family.

Keep in mind, this information is not to scare you or to make you paranoid. Having a good grasp on your family health history can motivate you to make good health choices, encourage you to take preventative health measures with regular checkups, and help you alert medical professionals to possible causes of health problems should they occur.
Polk is the health ministry specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. For more information about living a healthy lifestyle, check out “Fit 4: A LifeWay Christian Wellness Plan” at www.fit4.com.

    About the Author

  • Branda Polk