Family Health History

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Americans today are faced with a number of health issues, mainly as a result of poor diet, lack of exercise, and lifestyle choices; but, of course, genetics does play a part. My family, for example, has a history of several issues. My father suffers from diabetes and asthma, which my children have as well. My older sister and I both suffer from stress, which is most likely causing our chronic heartburn and my headaches; and, both my husband and I are borderline obese, which is a gateway disease to many others. While some of these issues are linked genetically, many of them are due to lifestyle, which can be viewed as both negative and positive. Negative because we brought these ailments onto ourselves, but positive because we can still turn things around.

Type 2 diabetes
My father, who just turned 75, has been suffering from diabetes for about 15 years. He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in his early 60s, having symptoms of frequent urination, unusual thirst and hunger, and extreme fatigue and irritability. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. Millions of Americans have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and many more are unaware they are at high risk. In type 2 diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin, which is the hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life, or the cells ignore the insulin. My father now has to monitor his blood glucose levels daily, using a meter and keeping a log of his results, and carefully watches his diet while participating in regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight. He also has been instructed to take medication, including insulin, to control his diabetes. By following his treatment plan and making the recommended lifestyle changes, my father can prevent or delay the onset of complications associated with diabetes. These can include heart disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, amputation, blindness, as well as gum disease and sleep apnea.

Acquiring type 2 diabetes is dependent on both genetic and environmental factors. Because my father has type 2 diabetes, I am at high risk for developing it. In addition, if I consume a diet high in fats and low in carbohydrates and fiber, and do not exercise, I increase my chances of getting the disease even more. This is why I am taking action now by trying to make better food choices and getting regular exercise. (Currently, I am enrolled in walk/jog and pilates classes.) I am also trying to teach my children better eating habits as well and encouraging more activity in the day by enforcing a “no television during the day” rule. Hopefully, this behavior decreases both mine and my children’s chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

Asthma is another disease my father suffers from, which we were not aware of until his early 60s as well. Asthma is a common chronic inflammatory disease where the airways narrow and swell, resulting in variable and recurring symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. This disease cannot be cured, but symptoms can be prevented by avoiding triggers, such as allergens and irritants, and by inhaling corticosteroids, or steroid hormones. If an asthma attack does occur, treatment is usually consists of taking albuterol in form of an inhaler or nebulizer. Albuterol relaxes the muscles and dilates the bronchial passages, opening up the airways and making breathing easier.

My father suffers from both exercise- and allergy-induced asthma. If he engages in certain physical activities too long or is exposed to high levels of dust or pollen, he experiences bouts of coughing and wheezing, preventing him from sleeping at night. My mother tries to prevent my father from experiencing asthma attacks by reminding him not to overexert himself and by keeping their house clean. They had to give away their cats, install air filters and must regularly dust and vacuum the furniture and...
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