University of Alabama at Birmingham genetic experts say the holidays present an opportunity to learn more about your family’s genetic makeup.
“The holidays are a great time to collect your family history,” says Lynn Holt, M.S., director of the School of Health Professions Genetic Counseling program. “Most people don’t know much about the family history beyond their first-degree relatives, their own parents and siblings.”
Use family gatherings as an opportunity to speak with great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, siblings, and children about life, death, and any health concerns, including relatives who may have died at a young age. “We sometimes hear people say they’ve been told their mother’s brother dropped dead at age 20, for example,” says Holt. “It’s important to find out why; was it because of a genetic heart condition that you might have inherited, or is it simply that brother was guilty of some accident that nobody wants to talk about?”
Holt recommends asking questions about cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental health concerns, as a starting point. Discretion, however, is important, the experts recommend to bring up this subject in private, if possible. It is also important to share this information with your physician.
Visit the National Society of Genetic Counselors’ Website for more information about family history collections.
Source: UAB Media Relations