Sunday, April 22, 2012

Family Medical History

Imagine that it is four o'clock in the morning of Christmas Eve.You checked in at the Coffeyville, Kansas Holiday Inn after visiting cousins in Wichita, Kansas.  As you are getting ready to go to bed, you have gradual onset of chest pain and shortness of breath. You grab your cell phone and call the front desk. The desk clerk calls the volunteer fire department, which dispatches an ambulance. When the paramedics load you up,  your consciousness fades. A distant voice rouses you. Your glasses are missing. An endotracheal tube, connected to a ventilator,  prevents you from speaking.Your spouse and grandkids are in Germany enjoying a Rhein River cruise and won't be home till the following week. A resident physician pours through your incomplete medical records.  There is an undefined family history of heart disease. A nurse is frantically trying to reach a family member or friend.

How to Compile Your Family Medical History
Family medical history is crucial to assess health and disease risk. Sparse medical history can lead to unnecessary medical screening, inappropriate treatment, and delay in diagnosis.  Here are some recommendations to gather crucial information that may save your life.Compile a list of relatives and their contact information.  Ask about a range of health conditions, including heart disease, cancer, dementia, alcohol abuse, complicated childbirth, and when these were diagnosed.  Keep the records current. They can be stored on-line at familyhistory.hss.gov. Update it periodically and print copies for family and health care providers.  Additional useful websites include cdc.gov/genomics/famhistory and talkhealthhistory.org.  This may save your life.
Source:  HealthSmart; USA Weekend, April 2012.