Awareness of the Family Chronic Conditions as a Critical Step Toward a Comprehensive Health Assessment

This report aims at collecting and critically analyzing the information about the chronic diseases run in the family, with a focus on assessing hereditary patterns and risks of transmission to other members. After a short conversation with my family members according to the guidelines of the Surgeon General’s Health Portrait Tool, I learned that all my ancestors are Caucasian who came to the US from Western Europe, in particular, Italy and Germany. Some of the death causes discovered include grandfather’s diabetes and grandmother’s heart attack.

Both grandparents died in their eighties. As stated by my relatives, there is no history of cancer, strokes, mental impairments, genetic abnormalities, and chronic neurological diseases, such as Parkinsons or multiple sclerosis, running in the family. The family history of chronic illnesses contains coronary heart disease, asthma, Crohn’s disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. My mother was diagnosed with coronary heart disease in her fifties, and my father developed asthma in his forties. Also, my uncle has a Chron disease since his late teenage years. Finally, both grandparents suffer from high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes since their seventies. Neither my sister nor I have chronic conditions.

All of the aforementioned chronic diseases involve genetic predisposition and environmental factors. However, Cleynen et al. (2016) noted that hereditary patterns of Crohn’s disease remain unclear. While researchers confirmed that the illness tends to cluster in the families, empirical evidence shows that the risk of developing the condition in first-degree relatives is approximately 1% (Cleynen et al., 2016). Similar tendencies can be found in the genetics studies of asthma. Ober (2015) emphasized that due to the complex nature of the condition, hereditary patterns remain ambiguous. On the one hand, asthma can be passed through generations regardless of the relative’s sex.

On the other hand, the person might not develop the illness, despite acquiring a mutated gene (Ober, 2015). In comparison to asthma and Crohn’s disease, the risk of the new family members obtaining coronary heart disease is much higher. As suggested by Khera et al. (2016), the condition can be inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, meaning that both males and females are equally affected by the genetic mutation. Though genetic factor plays an important role in the course of the development of these diseases, healthy lifestyle and timely consultation with the healthcare provider, help to minimize the risk of developing these conditions.

Unlike in heart disease, asthma, and inflammatory bowel conditions, the risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes is strongly associated with the individual’s lifestyle. Pazoki et al. (2017) emphasized that genetic factors increase the likelihood of developing high blood pressure the most when combined with unhealthy life choices, such as alcohol abuse, smoking, and an unbalanced diet.

The findings of the researchers are supported by the earlier study, conducted by Prasad and Groop (2015), who suggested that type 2 diabetes does not have a clear inheritance pattern. However, the risk of the disease’s transmission to other relatives raises with the overall number of family members involved. In other words, since both of my grandparents had a history of type 2 diabetes, the likelihood of me and my sibling developing it in the fifties increases.

High level of awareness about the chronic conditions run in the family is a critical step toward a comprehensive health assessment. Easily accessible, convenient, and free, The Surgeon General’s Health Portrait Tool is an essential instrument both for patients and healthcare professionals. In a visually compelling manner, it briefly summarizes the history of family diseases, allowing practitioners to consider the hereditary patterns and risk factors involved, as well as screening methods needed. Currently working with genetic mutations, I find the perspective of using this tool in my practice highly beneficial.
The data collected about single gene, chromosomal, and complex genetic disorders present in the family will allow designing the most suitable course of treatment in accordance to the individual symptoms and family experiences.

Cleynen, I., Boucher, G., Jostins, L., Schumm, L. P., Zeissig, S., Ahmad, T., … Lees, W. C. (2016). Inherited determinants of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis phenotypes: A genetic association study. The Lancet, 387(10014), 156-167. Web.

Khera, A. V., Emdin, C. A., Drake, I., Natarajan, P., Bick, A., Cook, N., … Kathiresan, S. (2016). Genetic risk, adherence to a healthy lifestyle, and coronary disease. The New England Journal of Medicine, 375(24), 2349-2358. Web.

Ober, C. (2015). Asthma genetics in the post-GWAS era. Annals of the American Thoracic Society, 13(1), 85-90. Web.

Pazoki, R., Dehghan, A., Evangelou, E., Warren, H., Gao, H., Caulfield, M., … Tzoulaki, I. (2017). Genetic predisposition to high blood pressure and lifestyle factors: Associations with midlife blood pressure levels and cardiovascular events. Circulation, 137(7), 653-661. Web.

Prasad, R. B., & Groop, L. (2015). Genetics of type 2 diabetes – Pitfalls and possibilities. Genes, 6(1), 87-123. Web.

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