Do You Know What Conditions you may inherit?
So much happens at the National Western Stock Show. For those who missed last week’s blog, the NWSS is an exhibition of all things cowboy held in Denver each January. In addition to stock shows, there are rodeos, wild west shows, exhibits and vendors of all types. Each year our University of Colorado health professions students provide health screenings and flu shots at our NWSS booth.
Each year I encounter patients that make me think about something interesting. This year, a woman stopped by to get a free flu shot and to ask about an experience she had following a minor surgery when she was given a common drug for postoperative nausea and vomiting.
Every hospital and surgeon wants patients to have a good surgical experience. The patient is typically unconscious during the surgery and is only aware of things that happen after they wake up in the recovery room. Patients polled after surgeries report that vomiting is the major reason they would have a poor experience. It leaves a bad taste in their mouth, so to speak.
This patient received a drug for nausea and vomiting, and instead had an unusual response to the drug, including shaking and feeling exceptionally hot – “I wanted to rip my clothes off and run out in the cold just to cool down”. What makes this particularly interesting was that she described how her sister had a similar very unusual reaction to the same drug.
The case illustrates how much we inherit within our family.
Children inherit about half their genes from mom and half from dad; brothers and sisters have a lot of genes in common, also from the same mom and dad. Children commonly develop the same diseases as their parents. If your mom or dad had high blood pressure or diabetes, then you’re at increased risk for hypertension or diabetes.
Sometimes it can seem spooky. I developed appendicitis and had my appendix out at about the same age as my dad. I’ve always wondered how much of our health is programmed by our genes. My two grandfathers both died young, and I felt relieved when I survived to 50 years old. My grandmother lived to almost 104, and I can only hope that I carry some of her healthy genes.
Hypertension, diabetes, cancer and other diseases tend to run in families. Some of the tendency can be environmental – the diet and habits you develop from your family, but many disease tendencies are inherited. Inheritance can follow certain patterns; sometimes you have to inherit only one dominant gene from either parent to have the similarity with that parent.
Sometimes you’ll have to inherit the same recessive gene from both parents in order to see the biological effect; this type of inheritance is seen with sickle cell anemia and Tay-Sachs disease. In many instances dealing with disease and drug action, inheritance can be even more complex.
You should pay attention to the diseases of your parents, brothers and sisters, which you may inherit.
Those diseases are the ones that you will have a greater likelihood of developing. This may seem like bad news, but it’s also good news. If you have a family history of heart disease, start taking care of your heart early so you can avoid the problems. If you have a family history of diabetes, keep your weight and diet under control to preserve your pancreatic function as long as possible.
And take advantage of health screenings. Pharmacies will often have blood pressure machines available to watch your blood pressure.
Sometimes they’ll have diabetes screenings available. And your pharmacist or primary care provider can talk to you about your concerns and what you might do to stay healthy. Take care of yourself.
CDC Family Health History Page
CDC My Family Health Portrait