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In spring time when flowers and foliage bloom, it is somewhat striking; all of a sudden life is emerging from the ground where before there was just soil.
Likewise, critical illnesses often show up suddenly and take people by surprise.
However, with the exception of trauma and accidents, this type of illness seldom arrives without some evidence, however hidden, of it being present for people in their health history before the illness arrived.
For example, someone close to me took a fall in his 70s. When he fell, he twisted his neck, and damaged his spinal cord, ending up nearly paralyzed, and having to spend the rest of his life dealing with an impaired nervous system. This seemed to all involved to be a sudden and tragic event with no prior warning.
However, upon further questioning, he acknowledged that about eight months ago he had tingling in one of his hands and was recommended to see an orthopedic surgeon to evaluate the spinal column in his neck.
Looking even further back, he had both a family history of osteoarthritis (which can show up in the cervical spine in the neck and threaten the spinal cord) and had had a hip replacement himself.
If he and his doctor were taking into account his personal and family history in looking at something as seemingly innocent as tingling in his hands, it could have been quickly recognized that something that could cause that symptom could be arthritis in the cervical (neck) spine, which if it progressed could easily threaten the spinal cord.
Whether we are thinking of degenerative diseases like arthritis, neurological diseases, or metabolic diseases like diabetes, or suddenly occurring diseases like heart attacks or even cancer, there are almost always warning signs that could alert the person and doctor to the likelihood of this illness. And, of course, the earlier we deal with health issues, like a leaky roof, the more effectively and efficiently we can deal with it and avoid serious premature illness.
So how do we deal with this?
Unfortunately in this age of HMO and legislated medicine, doctor visits are not structured to give ample attention to a persons family and personal history.
But it is not really all that difficult. If we look carefully at our family history, we can get a pretty good approximation of our genetic code and the illnesses we are predisposed to, at least if we live and eat the way our predecessors did. Knowing our family history can instruct us in important changes to make in our diet and lifestyle.
A careful health history, including what doctors call a “review of systems” (addressing different aspects of our bodies) and a survey of personal habits, can quickly reveal any areas of our health that are vulnerable and put us at risk.
It is possible to live into our late years with good health. Many illnesses that rob us of this opportunity can, with the correct vigilance, be identified and addressed before they overtake us.
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