You are your parents

The title of this article probably sends shivers down the spine of the average college student.  Attending college is a time when young adults get to separate themselves from the people that controlled their existence for the last 17 years. The last thing most of you want to hear is that you are anything like your parents!


While I understand this reaction, there is one fact you cannot escape and that is genetics.  Yes, you are your parents.  They contributed half of their genetic make-up in either an egg or sperm to create you. While there are many components of you that are quite unique, you must keep in mind that you did inherit some of the things that make up your parents, both good and bad.


Those of us in the healthcare industry are very interested in you and your parents’ genes.  In order for us to take the best care of you, we must obtain a thorough health history, including your family history.  As a practitioner at the Student Health Center, I am amazed  how many of you do not know anything about your parents’ health or illnesses.  Understandably, many parents do not like to share their ailments with their children. While we all like to have a certain amount of privacy, there comes a time that your parents should share certain information with you in order for you to have a healthier old age.


OLD AGE!  Yes, I know that most of you are around 18 to 24 years of age and not thinking about aging, but if you take care of yourself you will get old.  That being said, the next question is… How do you want to be at 80?  Think about it.  Do you want to be an active senior citizen still enjoying the benefits of your college degree or in a wheelchair hooked up to a dialysis machine, (or whatever they will be using in 50 years)?  Some of the choice is yours, but some disorders may be inherited from your family.  If your healthcare providers are aware of these family conditions, they can assess and treat you for them in the earliest stages to minimize their destructive effects, giving you a better quality of life.


There are certain illnesses that we in healthcare know have long-term effects if not properly managed.  Disorders like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart issues, and cancer can be inherited.  If a close family member, like your parent, sibling, or grandparent, has died, ask what the cause of death was and age they died.  Knowing your family health history has the potential for not only long-term but short-term benefits.  Now go home and start asking questions.  Your life may depend on it someday.