Savvy Consumer: Take time to track your medical family treeIt may sound quaint, but a homemade family tree showing health histories can be a lifesaver. In fact, these personalized health logs, which 30 percent of Americans have, can reveal as much about your risk of various illnesses as costly high-tech gene-screening tests.
By: Good Housekeeping Reports, INFORUM
It may sound quaint, but a homemade family tree showing health histories can be a lifesaver. In fact, these personalized health logs, which 30 percent of Americans have, can reveal as much about your risk of various illnesses as costly high-tech gene-screening tests. When researchers at the Cleveland Clinic compared risks based on family history with those from personal genome screens that test for common DNA variations, the simple history flagged far more people who could benefit from stepped-up monitoring or tests for specific mutations related to breast, colon or prostate cancer. “Most alarmingly, the genome screening missed all of the people at high risk for colon cancer,” says Charis Eng, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the clinic’s Genome Medicine Institute. So take the time to bring your medical history up to date.
1. Include all conditions: Complete a family tree with all health conditions, not just those you think are genetic. Shared environments and lifestyles revealed in family histories can help explain risks of chronic ills such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, says Nedal Arar, Ph.D., of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
2. Don’t forget Dad: When 2,505 women filled in family histories, they were much more likely to enter cases of breast and ovarian cancers for their mothers’ relatives than for their fathers’, a 2010 NorthShore University HealthSystem study found. The cancer-risk genes, however, are just as likely to be passed from your father’s side as from your mother’s. “And when assessing their own odds, women didn’t take cancers on the father’s side as seriously,” says lead author Wendy S. Rubinstein, M.D., Ph.D. Both sides count – and you’re more likely to get the information you need from grandmothers, aunts and female cousins than from guy relatives, who often don’t know about the diseases in the family, Rubinstein says.
3. Get the Net advantage: Many websites help you gather the health information that you need, but some leave out key relatives or offer only limited entries before you have to pay. GH recommends these two websites, which are both highly regarded and free of charge:
- My Family Health Portrait, from the U.S. Surgeon General (familyhistory.hhs.gov). The site includes all diseases and lets you make a printout to share with your doctor – a key step. It takes about 20 minutes to complete, and you also will be able to share with other family members. Rest assured, the site is private and the information you share will not be available to anyone else but you.
- MyGenerations, from NorthShore University HealthSystem (northshore.org/genetics/mygenerations). This tool translates family-history information on cancer into risk ratings (average, moderate or high) and offers detailed advice geared to findings. The program will take about 10 minutes to complete, and you will be able to share your personalized cancer risk assessment with your health care providers.
Start filling in the branches of your family’s health history today, and grow toward better health.
On another matter...
Having an email account hacked can be annoying or dangerous if the perpetrator can gain access to personal info. Protect yourself:
1. Set up a second email account for newsletters – mailing lists may give the address to others. The more unwanted email you get, the greater the potential for receiving malicious files.
2. Don’t open attachments or click on links from unknown sources. Keep antivirus and browser software updated.
3. Be smart with your password – it shouldn’t be a word found in a dictionary.
4. Don’t trust public Wi-Fi. It’s fine for general Web browsing, but avoid using it for anything that you log onto.
The following products and vehicles were recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Unless otherwise indicated, discontinue use of the products immediately and return them to the store where purchased for a refund. For more information about the products, call the manufacturer or CPSC’s toll-free hotline, (800) 638-2772. Only some cars or trucks recalled are affected. Contact a dealer for your model to see if it is included in the recall. The dealer will tell you what to do.
- Mizuno Supreme Series and Ball Park Pro baseball and softball gloves. Sold at Walmart and Target stores from April 2010 through May 2011 and cost between from $24 and $60.
Some gloves were found to contain a variety of molds that could cause respiratory or other infections in individuals with chronic health problems, or in individuals who have impaired immune systems. Consumers should immediately stop using the gloves and contact Minzuno USA at (800) 451-7913 for a full refund.
- 2006-07 Lexus/Rx400H; 2006-07 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Some of these vehicles may have a module inside the inverter module that during high-load driving, may be damaged by heat caused by the large current. If this occurs, the vehicle may enter a mode that limits the car’s drivability or the car could shut down while being driven, increasing the risk of a crash. Dealers will inspect the cars to determine whether the inverter is affected and will replace the module free of charge. Owners may contact Toyota at (800)-331-4331.