- Knowing the answers to certain medical questions can help you to calculate your potential future health risks.
Some medical conditions are hereditary or influenced by your genes, so it can be proactive to learn more about your family’s medical history. In some cases, it can help you start taking the appropriate steps if certain diseases or conditions do run in your family.
To spark that conversation, INSIDER spoke with several doctors to find out which questions you should ask your family to better understand your health.
Do you, or any of our blood relatives, have any chronic health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.?
- Knowing this information can help you to better gauge your risk for developing certain conditions.
It’s important to know the answer to this question because your chances of developing a chronic health condition are much higher if your parents or immediate family members have such a condition, according to Kumar Dharmarajan, MD, MBA, Chief Scientific Officer at Clover Health.
Genetics play a key role in high blood pressure, heart disease, and other related conditions, meaning some people are more susceptible to developing these conditions than others.
Dr. Dharmarajan explained that when you know your family’s medical history you can work with your doctor to identify potential risk factors and develop a plan to delay or even prevent the onset of some of these conditions.
Did you or anyone in your family ever have problems with anesthesia?
- The answer can help you figure out if you have a rare genetic mutation.
- Getty Images/Carsten Koall
There is an extremely rare hereditary genetic mutation that can actually cause a deadly reaction when put under anesthesia, Celine Thum, MD of ParaDocs Worldwide, Inc told INSIDER. The condition is called Malignant Hyperthermia Syndrome (MHS).
Knowing if your family has a history of MHS can help you plan for the use of different drugs to control pain and sedation during any future surgeries.
Have you, or any of your blood relatives, had a major medical event such as a heart attack, stroke, or cancer diagnosis?
- Knowing your risk factor can be helpful.
In many instances, if your parents or immediate family members have experienced major disease complications or health events, there’s a higher risk you may have similar issues, Dr. Dharmarajan told INSIDER.
The good news is that the risk factors are modifiable and early detection and treatment can potentially prevent serious illness such as stroke and heart attacks, adds Dr. Thum.
Plus, depending on your history, your doctor may encourage early screenings for cancers or other diseases that run in the family, depending on the age that your family members were diagnosed.
Is there any history of mental health issues in our family, including alcoholism or other kinds of substance abuse?
- In some cases, you could be more at risk. for developing certain issues.
Your chances of having a mental illness are sometimes higher if a family member also has a mental illness such as ADHD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, said Dr. Dharmarajan.
You may also want to ask if your family has a history of alcoholism or substance abuse because some risk factors for mental illness are passed on behaviorally. A New Zealand study found that the more relatives a person had with major depression, anxiety, or alcohol or drug dependence, the more likely they were to have that condition, too.
Have you been tested for genetic diseases?
- This is especially good to know if you plan to have children.
- Syda Productions/Shutterstock
If your parents carry any disease genes, there is a chance you have inherited those gene mutations that could cause problems for your future biological children, should you choose to have any.
Even though you may not have the disease, you could be a carrier with only one disease gene. If you have a biological child with someone who also is a carrier of the same disease gene, then your child could develop the disease. There is an increased chance you and your partner carry the same disease-causing gene if you’re of the same ethnic background.
Has anyone in your family died at a young age and if so, was the cause known?
- There could be a hereditary condition in your family.
- John Moore/Getty Images
There are some hereditary heart conditions that may go undetected unless early testing is done, said Dr. Thum.
One of these conditions is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), a disease in which the heart muscles become abnormally thick, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. Oftentimes HCM goes undiagnosed in people who have the disease because so few symptoms exist.
But if you know that someone in your family has HCM or another hereditary heart condition, you can be proactive by letting your doctor know so you can receive early testing and treatment.
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- Houston nursing student Christina Smith thought she just had a hangover, but she later learned she had a brain tumor.
- Fox 26
- A 23-year-old Houston nursing student woke up with a bad headache after a family birthday party, and thought “it was a hangover.”
- In the middle of the night, she had a seizure and was rushed to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
- The tumor required a risky surgery that led to half of her body being temporarily paralyzed.
- She has since fully recovered and is back in nursing school.
Hangovers can certainly be brutal. But what Christina Smith thought was a nasty hangover turned out to be something much more sinister: a brain tumor.
One morning, the 23-year-old nursing student woke up with what she thought was a headache. It made sense since she’d had a few drinks at her niece’s birthday party the night before.
“I thought it was a hangover,” Smith told Fox 26, adding that the headache didn’t disappear as the day continued. Instead, the pain only got worse.
She went to bed that night assuming the pain would pass. But she ended up in the hospital according to Fox 26 in Houston.
While she slept, Smith had a seizure and her husband brought her to the emergency room at Bayshore Medical Center where they discovered a brain tumor. Dr. John Tynes, chief medical officer at Bayshore Medical Center, told Fox 26 that the tumor was, “very likely to be aggressive.” It had formed around a very delicate vein in her brain, Tynes said, and removing it would be an extremely dangerous endeavor.
“There was no way to remove that tumor without removing part of that vein, and when you take out a vein in the brain, as you can imagine, there are risks associated with that, like stroke, permanent brain damage, paralysis,” Tynes told Fox 26. “So it was a very difficult, very brave decision … that Christina made to go ahead and have the surgery.”
Smith decided to go through with the risky surgery
- According to Dr. Tynes, Smith’s decision to have the surgery was “very brave.”
- Fox 26
And after hours of surgery, her tumor was gone, but she woke up unable to move one side of her body.
“I had a little rehab in the hospital, and I was expected to have in-patient rehab, and the next thing you know, I start recovering faster than normal, so I didn’t need much rehab at all,” Smith told Fox 26.
Smith has since made a complete recovery and says she has returned to nursing school.
In her words, it was the loving support of her friends and family – all 40 of them who waited for her in the hospital throughout her surgery – that got her through.
This isn’t the first time a dangerous headache was written off as a hangover
- Severe pain shouldn’t be ignored.
- Zdenko Zivkovic/Flickr
In 2016, The Sun reported a case of Hope Stringer, a 23-year-old woman who initially thought she had a hangover, and later thought she was just working too much. After demanding an MRI, Stringer’s doctors discovered a tumor, which ended up being soft tissue sarcoma. Fortunately, she is now cancer-free.
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Going to the dentist is often an opaque process in which you’re seldom, if ever, given the price you’re going to pay for your treatment before setting foot inside the door.
While most of us have learned to accept the terms of today’s medical industry, two Brooklyn-based dentists are attempting to upend the traditional route to dental treatment.
Richard and Derek Giddon, a father-and-son team who have nearly 40 years of combined dentistry experience, have created a new tool to discover affordable dental care that allows consumers to pick the price they’re able to afford.
“When you go to the dentist and have x-rays and an exam, they tell you what you’ll need, and then, what it costs,” said Derek Giddon in an interview with Business Insider.
“I can’t think of any other industry in 2018 in which the consumer is so completely powerless. If you can’t afford the fees that the doctor gives you, what options do you have?”
The Giddons’ solution to this problem is Smylen.com, a website that matches dentists with patients seeking treatment. The website is modeled after an early version of the affordable hotel-searching tool Priceline, which originally let people search the site for hotel rooms based on location and cost.
Like the early version of Priceline, Smylen lets you search for the dental treatment you use based on cost and location in a reverse bidding process. This reverse bidding process is an important aspect of the site, said Giddon, because it provides dentists that partner with Smylen a degree of anonymity.
“The dentists aren’t hanging a sign outside their window that says ‘$99 Crowns,’” said Giddon. “These fees exist within the system, and the only person who knows they’re getting the cheaper deal is the person who gets it.”
Giddon said he hopes Smylen will provide options for people who are uninsured to receive dental treatment. A recent study by the American Dental Association found that less than one-third of young adults make yearly trips to the dentist because they think it’s too expensive.
“There’s nothing that exists right now to give people this type of service,” said Giddon. “It’s a major problem in this country. Everyone is always talking about affordable care, but if you don’t have coverage, affordable care is often inadequate in terms of covering what you need.”
Giddon anticipates Smylen’s service will provide options for services that aren’t typically covered by insurance as well, including cosmetic procedures like tooth whitening, dental implants, and Invisalign.
While Smylen is designed to provide Americans with affordable dental treatment, Giddon said he believes the medical community will benefit from the company’s offerings as well.
“It’s a new way of bringing dentists business,” said Giddon. “If they know that there are times or days of the week when their office is empty, they can set the fee and services they want to offer during those times.”
In an effort to offer only premium services, the dentists who partner with Smylen are rigorously vetted, said Giddon. The company uses the same vetting process used by insurance companies when partnering with a new medical office.
“We feel strongly that our focus is that we have the right dentists,” said Giddon. “These dentist have stellar reputations. You shouldn’t be nervous when you’re sitting in their chair.”
Smylen’s services, which launched on Monday, are so far only available within New York’s five boroughs, but Giddon hopes to bring its service to the rest of the US as well.
Here’s how it works:
First, you pick the dental treatment you need.
If you’re unsure of which service is right for you, you can use Smylen’s self-diagnosis tool to get a general idea of the treatment you might need.
Then, pick the fee you want to pay for the service you picked and place your bid.
Smylen connects dentists and patients through relevant area codes. Currently, Smylen provides its services only within New York City, but Giddon says he plans to expand Smylen’s offerings to different parts of the US later this year.
After you enter your credit card information, you’ll be matched with a dentist. If the price you picked is an acceptable bid for a dentist, your card will be charged the moment you match. In this instance, my bid for a $99 whitening service matched with a Brooklyn-based dentist.
Because Smylen’s price point tool is based on bids, you may have to enter several different amounts before you match. Once you do, you’ll be prompted to pick a time that works.