From Prevention

[this is family health hx tree that we use in medical academics]

Recently over meals with my father, he’s asked me why strokes happen so often nowadays.  Why is the prevalence of cancer ever increased?  Many of his colleagues have suffered from strokes and they’ve been telling him about it so his awareness for health is increased.  He’s been relatively more concerned with his stress levels lately because he associates stress with bad health and this theory may be true.  Constant stress does put your health at risk for many disorders. (click on link if you’d like to read more about that).  I know when he asks this he is comparing much of it to his younger experiences and knowledge in Vietnam where (to him) people didn’t have strokes or die from them.  He may be correct…that the incidence of strokes don’t happen as much in Vietnam as they do in the States but how much do Vietnamese really know about strokes anyway?

Anyway, I answered his question by comparing the two lifestyles of a typical Vietnamese and a typical American : differences in physical activity, mental stress, nutritional diets but I also added that when someone dies in Vietnam, they really don’t know the medical cause.  The causes of death are termed so simply like, “he died from a cold/cough. died from respiratory sickness.  died in his sleep.”  These are merely complications of bigger underlying diseases that Vietnamese people are unaware of because of their lack of health care (talk about vulnerable population!).

Finally, I came across an interesting, simple article on the significance of family health history.  At the end of the article was a thought provoking chart that showed old terminology, in terms of health, and what it may correlate to in modern terminology.  Check it out!


from Prevention Publication


According to an old book her dad came across, Jessica Branch’s great-great-great-great-great-grandfather died “of nightmare.” Branch, a Prevention senior editor, had no idea why Amaziah Branch, a schoolteacher and preacher, and one of the first American published poets, would have had such a deadly dream. She felt that she’d sleep easier with a trustworthy translation of what she assumed was an antiquated medical term.

For guidance, we turned to Janet Golden, PhD, a professor of history at Rutgers University–Camden, who specializes in medical history. Her guess: “Amaziah died in his sleep, suddenly gasping from a stroke or arrhythmia.”

If you’re pursuing your pedigree, you’ll find that ancestral causes of death can be vague. Dr. Golden says that diagnostic tools of yore were primitive, so many kinds of disease may simply have been listed as “sudden death.” Here’s what some of the most common terms may mean.

Ague A bad cold or flu or any kind of fever
Apoplexy Stroke
Bad blood Syphilis. While you’re unlikely to see this in the family Bible, you may find “locomotor ataxia” (motion disorder) in medical records — earlier generations didn’t realize that muscle weakness was a symptom of syphilis.
Childbed fever Puerperal sepsis, an infection introduced into the vaginal canal during birth
Consumption Tuberculosis, usually — but this vague term can include other lung diseases, such as pleurisy, or infection
Dropsy End-stage kidney disease
Falling sickness Epilepsy
Greensickness Anemia
Lung fever Pneumonia

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