by Dr. Iain Corness
Another good reason to avoid being an orphan
The medical fraternity realized many
years ago that some medical conditions ran in families. I recently mentioned
Dupuytrens Contracture, which we have managed to trace back to the Vikings
who brought a ‘rogue gene’ with them in the longboats.
As medical knowledge continued to grow, we have found that for many more
conditions there are familial or hereditary factors giving a clue as to
whether you are going to have the same problems. Heredity is one of the
pointers to your health in the future, and what you can do to enjoy a long,
lively and healthy one. This is really where ‘thanks Mum and Dad’ comes in.
One problem of being an orphan is that it leaves the person with no idea as
to what ailments are going to befall them. Dad might have legged it or ‘fled
the scene’, but did he live to tell the tale when he was 60?
With the increasing research into genetics, we are able to map out our
likely futures and can predict such ailments as diabetes, epilepsy and other
neurological problems like Huntington’s Chorea and Alzheimer’s Disease, some
cancers such as breast, ovarian, lower bowel, prostate, skin and testicular,
heart attacks, blood pressure problems, certain blood diseases like Sickle
Cell anemia and so the list goes on.
However, you do not need to have multi-million baht examinations done on
your DNA to see where you are headed, all you need to do is to start asking
the older family members about your inheritance. Not the money - your
genetic inheritance in the health stakes.
Have you ever wondered why the questionnaire for life insurance asks whether
any close member of your family has ever suffered from diabetes, epilepsy
and other ailments and then also asks you to write down how old your parents
or brothers and sisters were when they died, and what they died from? All
that they, the insurance companies, are doing is finding out the relative
likelihood (or ‘risk’) of your succumbing early to an easily identifiable
disease. This does not need a postgraduate Masters degree in rocket science.
It needs a cursory application of family history.
If either of your parents had diabetes, your elder brother has diabetes,
your younger brother has diabetes and your cousin has diabetes, what are the
odds on your getting (or already having) diabetes? Again this does not need
Einstein. The answer is pretty damn high! And yet, I see families like this,
where the individual members are totally surprised and amazed when they fall
ill, go to hospital, and diabetes is diagnosed.
It does not really take very much time over a family lunch to begin to
enquire about one’s forebears. After five minutes it will be obvious if
there is some kind of common medical thread running through your family.
That thread may not necessarily be life threatening, but could be something
like arthritis for example.
Look at it this way - your future is being displayed by your family’s past.
This could be considered frightening, when your father, his brother and your
grandfather all died very early from heart attacks. Or, this could be
considered as life saving, if it pushes you towards looking at you own
cardiac health and overcoming an apparently disastrous medical history.
This is where careful application of family history can be life saving. If
there is a common thread, then go looking for it. This is the advantage that
you get provided you are not an orphan. You know what to look for before it
becomes a problem. Going back to the family with diabetes, what should the
younger members do? Well, if it were me, I would be having my blood sugar
checked at least once a year from the age of 20. Any time I had reason to
visit the doctor in between, I would also ask to have the level checked. We
are talking about a very inexpensive test that could literally save you
millions of baht in the future, as well as giving you a better Quality of
Life, and a longer one.
Ask around the dinner table today and plan to check your medical future
tomorrow. It’s called a ‘Check-up’!