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Family Pedigrees and Disease Prevention

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Health
Wordcount: 3210 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Family Pedigrees and Disease Prevention


A family pedigree is a useful tool in learning who our family members were, but a family health pedigree can be even more useful, in that it can help us learn about our family’s medical history as well. Why would this be important? One reason it is important is because some medical conditions are hereditary, and some are not; some medical conditions develop merely from living an unhealthy lifestyle. Knowing what medical conditions run in our family brings to our attention what potential health conditions we might be at risk of developing in the future. Perhaps, having this information can help us live a longer, healthier life. This paper analyzes a 3-generation family health pedigree which consists of myself, my siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. It includes information such as each family members’ age, whether they are deceased and the cause of death, and the health history of each family member. From the research I have conducted during the construction of this family health pedigree, I have compiled a list of potential health issues for myself and I have researched specific health promotion recommendations for those health issues, which will be discussed in this paper.

Family Pedigrees and Disease Prevention

 When it comes to our health, knowing our family medical history could be a huge advantage. Constructing and analyzing a family health pedigree, is helpful as it enables us to identify potential health issues and perhaps implement lifestyle changes that could ultimately prolong or even save our life.

 At present, I do not have any actual current health issues. However, after constructing and analyzing my family health pedigree, I have identified the following potential health issues for myself: stroke, breast cancer, colon cancer, Alzheimer’s/dementia, and myocardial infarction. I will discuss two of these concerns.

 Metastatic breast cancer took my mother’s life at the age of 61. Knowing that breast cancer is genetically linked, it is one of my main health concerns. It is important to do regular breast self-exams and to visit your doctor regularly because early detection could save your life. The following health promotion recommendations might aid in preventing breast cancer from developing: maintain a healthy weight by eating a diet that is low in fat (less than 30 grams per day is recommended), contains fresh fruits and vegetables (at least 5 cups per day), and contains omega-3 fatty acids. It is wise to avoid processed foods because they contain an abundance of sodium, sugars and carbohydrates (Can Food Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer? 2016). The American Cancer Society recommends that you exercise regularly (“at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week, or a combination of these”) (The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team, 2017). Abstain or limit alcohol intake; women should not consume more than one drink per day (The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team, 2017). Breastfeeding is thought to be beneficial in the prevention of breast cancer, in that it reduces the total number of menstrual cycles, which reduces the total amount of estrogen that a woman has in her lifetime (The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team, 2017). Estrogen is a hormone that has been linked to breast cancer.

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 Another potential health issue that raises concern for me is Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that is irreversible and devastating as it slowly destroys a person’s brain and strips them of precious memories, to the point of forgetting who they and their family members are and not being able to perform simple tasks or activities of daily living. Like breast cancer, Alzheimer’s is linked to genetics (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services National Institute on Aging, 2015).

 There are several health promotion recommendations that may lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s such as staying active; participating in regular cardiovascular exercise will not only strengthen your heart but it also keeps your brain healthy by increasing blood flow to the brain. Smoking is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, which in turn can lead to dementia; it also increases the risk of dementia by 30-50% (Alzheimer’s Society, 2019), so quitting smoking is beneficial in preventing Alzheimer’s. Eating a balanced diet such as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and the Mediterranean diet is recommended; both consist of low sugar, low saturated fat, low salt, limited red meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, shellfish, poultry, beans, seeds, nuts, olive oil, and healthy fats (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019). Managing your blood pressure is important because it helps prevent cardiovascular disease, which in turn can lead to Alzheimer’s. Getting adequate sleep is important, too, as lack of sleep can lead to depression and it speeds up the progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia (Clair Hansen, Staff writer, U.S. News & World Report, 2019). Depression decreases cognitive abilities and is also linked to Alzheimer’s (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019) so treating depression and/or other mental illnesses may help prevent it. Staying socially active keeps the mind active and helps strengthen the connections between nerve cells in the brain (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019). Challenging your mind is beneficial, as it stimulates your brain and keeps it healthy; activities such as puzzles, taking a class or taking on a project/building something are good ways to keep your brain active (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019). Another important way that you can prevent Alzheimer’s is to wear your seatbelt and protect your head with a helmet when engaging in sports activities; this helps to reduce head trauma (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019).

 The websites I chose to use for facts regarding breast cancer and Alzheimer’s are: www.genome.gov, www.cdc.gov, www.breastcancer.org, www.cancer.org, www.nia.nih.gov, www.alzheimers.org, and www.usnews.com. I chose these websites because they were well-known, they were unbiased, they were clear-cut and easy to understand, they offered a lot of information, and they offered other internal links for additional information. Additional websites that could be used as health promotion education for my other potential health issues are as follows: For stroke information, www.cdc.gov, www.stroke.org; for colon cancer, www.mayoclinic.org, www.cancer.gov; for myocardial infarction, www.hopkinsmedicine.org, and www.heart.org.

 In conclusion, I believe that family pedigrees are useful in preventing some diseases. In clinical practice we collect a family health history from each patient. This heightens our awareness, as clinicians, as to what our patient’s potential health issues are and it allows us to educate our patients about these health issues and give them suggestions on how they might be able to prevent them. I believe this information is helpful in nursing because it assists us in developing the appropriate plan of care for each patient and it gives us the opportunity to further educate the patient about certain disease processes.

 I do not believe it is risky to disclose family history information to health care providers because there are HIPAA laws to protect our patients’ confidentiality. Providing family history to health care providers is like having ammunition against an enemy; if we know what kind of enemy is out there, we can combat that enemy with proper education and information about modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors, and suggestions about available testing and lifestyle changes they can implement to prevent the enemy from attacking. Knowing what potential health issues our patients face might just help us save their lives.

 Ethics is somewhat of a “gray” area as far as disclosing health history information is concerned. Health care providers take an oath to “first do no harm”, which is supposed to protect the patients from being harmed. There are also HIPAA laws to protect patients’ privacy. However, physicians also have a “duty to warn”, as well, if they believe that nondisclosure would cause harm or death to someone. For example, notifying a patient about a spouse, significant other, or other family member’s new diagnosis of a communicable disease such as the AIDS virus. Should warning the other person take precedence over patient privacy? For the most part, I believe our personal health information is safe with our health care provider.

 Currently I am at a stage in my life where I am getting older and I am concerned about being healthy and staying healthy for as long as I can. I am not overly concerned about any certain health issue at this time, however, knowing how unhealthy my family was and what type of lifestyles they lived, has prompted me to lead a healthier lifestyle myself simply because I do not want to be sick or unable to do things that I love to do. I do not want to die at a young age. And I want to be able to spend as much time with my family as possible. A few years ago, I was a little overweight, which bothered me emotionally and I noticed that I was getting short of breath going up steps, so I decided to change my eating habits and lose some weight. I gave up soda and now I only drink water or unsweet tea. I eat very little “junk” food. I focus on eating foods that are low in sugar and “bad” carbohydrates, and low in salt. I try to eat a lot of nuts, fruits and vegetables. I don’t eat much red meat. Instead, I eat a lot of chicken and turkey. By changing my eating habits alone, I have lost 30 pounds in the last year. I still need to implement a regular exercise routine, which I plan to do this year.

 My willingness to change my own health behavior comes from within, as I have always been concerned about being overweight and being healthy, but it is also due, in part, to my nursing career. As a nurse, I see people getting sicker at younger ages and I often provide care for patients who are younger than me. I decided a long time ago that I do not want to be like my patients. I want to keep my independence and I want to be able to enjoy my retirement, when the time comes. Life is precious, and it is too short to spend it sick and in the hospital all the time. Another reason that I choose to be healthy is that I want to set a good example for my kids, so they will partake in healthy habits and live long, happy, productive lives.



Myself – C. Y.


Living, 52 yrs. old

Healthy, former smoker (quit 1988)

Sibling – K. Y.

Living, 47 yrs. old

Asthma, allergies, smoker, heart attack, femoral stent, cardiac stents

Paternal Side


Father – J. G.

Living, 82 yrs. old

Former smoker (quit 1980), partial lobectomy

Uncle – C. G.

Deceased (cancer, 75 yrs. old)

Cancer, smoker

Uncle – H. G.

Deceased (cancer, 62yrs old)

Cancer, smoker, alcoholism

Uncle – K. G.

Deceased (cancer, 47 yrs. old)

Cancer, smoker

Aunt – I. W.

Deceased (lung cancer, 69 yrs. old)

Lung cancer, atherosclerosis, smoker

Grandmother – I. G.

Deceased (colon cancer, 78 yrs. old)

Colon cancer

Grandfather –

 J. G.

Deceased (heart attack, 60 yrs. old)

Heart attack, smoker

Maternal Side

Mother – E. G.

Deceased (breast cancer, 61 yrs. old)

Stroke, breast cancer, smoker

Uncle – J. K.

Deceased (esophageal cancer, 54 yrs. old)

Esophageal cancer, smoker

Uncle – R. K.

Deceased (cancer, 75 yrs. old)

Cancer, smoker

Uncle – T. K.

Deceased (gunshot wound, 31 yrs. old)


Uncle – R. K.

Deceased (laryngeal and lung cancer, 76 yrs. old)

Laryngeal cancer, lung cancer, smoker

Uncle – W. K.

Deceased (severe cirrhosis of the liver, 41 yrs. old)

Cirrhosis of the liver, smoker, alcoholism

Uncle – R. K.

Living, 73 yrs. old

Lung injury while working with chemicals at work resulting in BIPAP dependency at night, smoker

Grandmother – E. K.

Deceased (Alzheimer’s/Dementia, 81 yrs. old)

Alzheimer’s, dementia, cholecystectomy

Grandfather – J. K.

Deceased (heart attack, 63 yrs. old)

Heart attack, smoker, alcoholism


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