Seniors benefit from know family history

Ben Sutherly for the Columbus Dispatch– 31 January 2016

Senior benefit from knowing family history-

When relatives gather, politics and religion are notorious no-nos. So when the next holiday rolls around, you might have better luck broaching the topic of your family’s health history.

It’s widely known that genetics play a role in diseases such as cancer and a range of cardiovascular disorders. But experts say that a familiarity with previous generations’ ills can help inform the care that people seek as they age, not to mention the preventative steps they take to safeguard their well-being.

If memory problems run in the family, for example, doctors should know. Dementia, while more prevalent among older people, is not a normal part of aging, said Dr. Meredith Mucha, a geriatrician at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.

“Information is power,” Mucha said. Documenting the health history of your family “allows us to be aware of things that you wouldn’t know otherwise to be aware of.”

It’s typical for doctors, of course, to compile comprehensive health histories of their patients, including pertinent information about family members. But doing your homework ahead of time can be a big help.

Such information often gives doctors insight and context for a patient’s health. If a patient’s parents had gout, for example, certain diuretics or blood-pressure medications might be bypassed to reduce the risk of side effects in the patient, said Dr. Greg Wise, a family medicine doctor in Groveport and the chief medical officer and medical director of MediGold, Mount Carmel Health System’s Medicare Advantage health plan.

Family history might help identify a patient’s liver as a culprit in his or her high levels of LDL, or bad, cholesterol. It can even help doctors determine proper drug dosages and how best to screen for aneurysms.

And family histories can help doctors rule out possible reasons for a patient’s health condition. “Sometimes family history helps us in a reverse way,” Wise said.

An awareness of previous generations’ health susceptibilities often is a helpful guide as one ages, but not always. Knowing your family has a history of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, for which there is no cure, might be a source of anxiety instead of empowerment.

Still, many experts say it’s usually better for people to know more than less.

“Human beings in general need to be incentivized to do things,” said Dr. Michael Wasserman, a California-based geriatrician, speaker and member of the American Geriatric Society’s Health in Aging Foundation.

“If you know that you might have a higher risk of developing a problem if you didn’t exercise or follow a diet, you then have a choice.”

Family histories are “a way of making it more personal,” Wasserman said.

Mucha’s mother, Bobbie Mucha, 69, of Westerville, modified her diet because her own mother and grandmother died in their early 70s of heart problems. She’s also careful about drinking because alcoholism runs in her family.

But it was her family’s brush with breast cancer — both Bobbie and her oldest daughter are survivors of the disease — that convinced her to get on the phone and speak with relatives, some of whom she hadn’t talked with for a long time.

“I felt that was the only way I would understand what I should be doing,” she said.

The U.S. surgeon general has had a family history initiative under way for more than a decade. Those wishing to create an online family health history that can be retrieved at a later date can do so at The web-based tool can tell you whether you’re at greater risk for certain health conditions such as diabetes and colon cancer.

Your parents, siblings and children are most important to include in a health history. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, half-brothers and half-sisters should be included, too. It’s important to include not only serious health events such as heart attacks and strokes, but also how old a relative was he or she had a health scare. Even knowing your family’s countries of origin can be pertinent.

“Elderly people see it as a way to educate and inform their children and their children’s children,” Mucha said.

Black History Month at the Georgia Archives

Johnny Jackson for Clayton News Daily

MORROW — The Atlanta chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, the Auburn Avenue Research Library, the Georgia Archives and the Friends of Georgia Archives and History will host a Black History Month program Feb. 13.

The daylong event, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., will feature guest speakers and lecturers on subjects ranging from African-American genealogical research to New Orleans plantation living.

The program is free and requires no registration. It will be held at the Georgia Archives, 5800 Jonesboro Road in Morrow. Visit to learn more about this and other upcoming events at the Georgia Archives.

Athens: I Seek Dead People- Program for teens

Athens-Clarke County LIbrary – Wednesday – Feb 3.

I Seek Dead People: A Teen’s Intro to Genealogy – Ever wondered where you come from? Learn how to trace your past and find some of your ancestors!  A Heritage Room librarian will be on hand to teach you all the basic ins and outs of genealogy and searching for your ancestors. They can also answer questions you might have about starting your search so you can continue it after the workshop. You never know who you could be related to, so come join us!  This workshop is open to teens 11-18.
Where: Multipurpose Room C, Athens-Clarke County Library, 2025 Baxter Street, Athens, Georgia
When: 4:30 p.m.

Ashley Callahan to speak at GA Archives Lunch & Learn

Lunch & Learn Friday February 12, 2016- 12 noon

Morrow, GA, January 19, 2016– Ashley Callahan will speak about her book Southern Tufts:
The Regional Origins and National Craze for Chenille Fashion
on Friday February 12, 2016, at the Georgia Archives at 12 noon.

Southern Tufts is the first book to highlight the garments produced by northwestern Georgia’s tufted textile industry. Though best known now for its production of carpet, in the early twentieth century the region was revered for its handtufted candlewick bedspreads, products that grew out of the Southern Appalachian Craft Revival and appealed to the vogue for Colonial Revival–style household goods. Callahan tells the story of chenille fashion and its connections to stylistic trends, automobile tourism, industrial developments, and U.S. history. Southern Tufts presents a broad history of tufted textiles, as well as sections highlighting individual craftspeople and manufacturers involved with the production of chenille fashion.

Ashley Callahan has an MA in the history of American decorative arts from Parsons School of Design and the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Institution, and a BA in art history from the University of the South.

Please join us at the Georgia Archives on February 12 as Callahan speaks about the history of candlewick and chenille garment production in northwestern Georgia from the 1920s through the 1950s. The talk is part of our monthly Lunch and Learn series, which is free and open to the public.

For more information, please contact Jill Sweetapple at 678.364.3731 or email at


Georgia Archives – 5800 Jonesboro Road, Morrow, Georgia 30260 – 678-364-3710