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January 29, 2012 at 9:15 PMComments: 1 Faves: 0

Health History Repeats Itself

By Jeffrey VanWingen M.D. More Blogs by This Author

I spent some time this week helping my daughter with a school paper.

She was assigned to write on the present nuclear capabilities issues between western countries and Iran. As she outlined the political dilemmas I was reminded of the Cuban Missile Crisis which took place decades ago -and then, reminded just how much history repeats itself.

In more than politics, it seems we are destined to repeat negative issues until they are effectively dealt with and committed to memory. 

This blog will focus on history as it pertains to our health and personal growth— learning from it and avoiding repetition of the negative.

Doctor as Historian

As a doctor, historian is in my job description. With most patient encounters, I collect historical data, pertinent to their health  both now and in the future.

“What do you do repeatedly at work that might be causing your neck pain?” 

“Did you spend a lot of time out in the sun when you were younger?” 

“How old was your uncle when he was diagnosed with colon cancer?” 

Such pieces of history are of paramount importance in diverting future disaster and preventing repeated misfortune. To effectively look forwards, we also need to look backwards.

The History of Your Health

Take a close look at your history - and yes, this includes the history of your genetically-related family.

Are there any health issues in your PAST that put you at risk in the FUTURE? If so, see your doctor and work on prevention! This may include screening tests, an exam or improved lifestyle measures.

Regarding your family, it is helpful to create a genogram (family tree) with notations about health issues. Many diseases from cancer, to heart disease, to diabetes, to mental illness are common and can have consequences down the family tree to you. Your doctor can help you discern what is pertinent to you and what is not. 

In your social world, work to learn from past errors. Prevent "replays" in the future. Recognition and identification of these things early on begin with being well-versed in the history of your health.

Health History in the Making

Finally, remember that you are history in the making!

What present behaviors could have consequences for you, your family now and even for future generations?  Consider: your health and health choices will leave a legacy in the years to come! Work toward improving your health and it may cascade down the family lines. Become exemplary to your family in your habits and pass it along.

History can, indeed, repeat itself. The key is identifying our shortcomings and in putting steps in place to prevent recurrence. May the only history you repeat be the positive kind!

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1 Comment

  • The part of your article about family history really hits home for me. The line saying "How old was your uncle when he was diagnosed with colon cancer?" really jumped out at me, in fact. While it wasn't cancer, I did find out my uncle had ulcerative colitis, but it was months and months after I started having symptoms. Had my uncle (or other family members) told me about it and discussed it with me more, I might still have my colon today instead of having waited and hoping it was just a nasty stomach bug of some sort. Now I wonder what other medical problems my family is hiding from me...

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