Know the Signs, Fight for Victory

Four Questions to Ask Your Family Over the Holidays

When is the most common time of the year for families to get together under one roof? That’s right, during the holidays. They are upon us, and soon you will have a few generations of family members sitting at the dinner table together catching up, telling stories, and enjoying each other’s company.

Marfan syndrome and related disorders are in most cases genetic. Meaning they can be passed down from generation to generation. Why should this matter to you? The health history of your family is your greatest asset to help you and your doctors determine potential health risks for you or a family member. You may be able to prevent some conditions by making changes in your lifestyle and making healthier life choices. So why not open that discussion up to your grandparents, aunts and uncles, nephews, and siblings? Here are four questions you can ask relatives about your family health history.

Did we have relatives who passed away at a young age?

If they died suddenly of heart-related causes and they were younger than 50, it may have actually been due to an aortic problem, which is frequently hereditary. And if you have Marfan syndrome or a related disorder, it is important to know more about it.

Did they have any known illnesses or surgeries during their lifetime?

Surgeries and/or illnesses can give clues about connective tissue disorders as they affect many body systems. Surgeries on bones or joints, lung problems, and even hernia surgeries may indicate a connective tissue problem.

What body features did they have?

Some of the obvious Marfan features are long fingers, indented chest, tall stature. Other features, such as a bifid uvula (when the tissue that hangs down in the back of the throat is forked), indicate Loeys-Dietz syndrome.

What were their lifestyle habits?

If they had to give up an active lifestyle due to physical limitations, then it could explain more about their health situation and provide clues about underlying medical problems.

Be prepared to chat with your relatives over the holidays. Download our Family Health History for guidance on starting the conversation and collecting the information.

How many generations can you track in your family?

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The Marfan Foundation is a nonprofit organization that saves lives and improves the quality of life of individuals with genetic aortic and vascular conditions including Marfan, Loeys-Dietz, and Vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndromes. Our vision is a world in which everyone with genetic aortic and vascular conditions can live their best life.

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