“A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.”
Jean de La Fontaine
The inclusion of genetics into a life management strategy may appear at first to be mistake. Life management implies choices and genetics is seen by most people as more luck of the draw rather than something that can be changed or upgraded. “Why bother” is typical response. Genetics, however, proves to be an ideal reframing tool for middle age adults. It provides an essential global view of a person’s family history that is beneficial in two areas:
1. It provides information for schematic overview of a person’s family medical history that we have entitled The Pedigree Road Map™.
2. It offers and emotional connection to specific risk factors and their outcomes, an essential step in the reframing process.
The Pedigree Road Map™ is unique portrayal of an individual’s family health history. While genetic history is one of the most valuable tools in preventative medicine, it is also the most underused. Part of the reason for its obscurity lies in its limited emphasis in clinical medicine.
While physicians will enquire about the family members and close relatives, alive and dead, the information is rarely developed or transferred into a usable form that allows patients to benefit from a global view of their risks, possible outcomes, and options. In the baby boomer world of increased volatility, stability begins with accurately knowing and managing risk.
The Pedigree Road Map™ plots out the magnitude and nature of the dangers that lie ahead. What was a curiosity in the first half of life, now becomes an essential piece of information for preserving quality of life. The effectiveness of The Pedigree Road Map™ to provide this level of risk management lies in the emotional context it creates for health issues.
Middle age adults are encouraged to exercise, watch their weight, eat a balanced diet, quit smoking, and reduce the stress in their lives. While this is all good advice to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, they are essentially perceived as facts. Facts, as previously discussed, are usually not enough to change concepts and behavior. Good advice needs to be presented from a different vantage point, repackaged with an emotional context in order to be effective in reframing. The emotionally charged world of families is an ideal platform to accomplish this.
Families are charged with emotions, both positive and negative. One thing they are not is neutral. Setting out to build The Pedigree Road Map™ may appear at first to be a clinical endeavor. It is not. The contextual diagramming of parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. initiates an emotional experience between real people and the person who stands on the base of the genetic tree. Each life, for better or worse, has dimensions, a story, and lessons. These insights are not lost on middle age adults who are wondering who they are, what the future will bring, and where their vulnerabilities lie.
The simple building of The Pedigree Road Map™ seems to ask as many questions as it answers. It sends the builder back to the family drawing board to find out more about the people who are directly linked to their lives. The obvious disease patterns are one thing, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. But it is the unplanned discoveries within the family system that make The Pedigree Road Map™ such a potent sector in The Quality of Life Portfolio™.
Not surprisingly, so much of what individuals know about their family is comprised of second hand information and in many cases myth. Facts have a way of changing over time with details being lost or changed from one telling to another. The Pedigree Road Map™ offers a forum to reexamine what really happened to family members. It becomes a vehicle to fill in the blanks on subjects or people that had been vague or misunderstood for years.
Unknown or unappreciated patterns begin to emerge, themes that have a significant bearing on the quality of life for middle age adults. The search for heart disease not only turns up heart disease but also a strong and undeniable pattern of depression in each successive generation. This discovery raises a red flag regarding mental health issues for all close family members. Like untreated hypertension, untreated depression can be devastating to quality of life. But a warning regarding depression in itself is simply a health alert.
The Pedigree Road Map™ gives it an emotional context inside of the family. Its expression and consequences become personal, linked to real people and real lives. It resonates as both a warning and forecast unless further action is taken. Because of this, it is ideally packaged for the reframing process, able to make a cognitive impression that can potentially alter behavior. In a world of long standing lifestyle habits, this turns out to be no small feat.
Finally, The Pedigree Road Map™ brings into focus an overlooked element in discussions regarding quality of life. All lives, upon close inspection, are deeply unique and require customized management plans. Clinical medicine does a good job of offering general guidelines for health screening, but the final and most important choices reside with the individual.
This has become more apparent as the financial burden of health care is being steadily shifted to consumer. In a similar fashion, the outcome burden is also being transferred as physicians readily admit they cannot know or implement every diagnostic or treatment option. Individuals must take a bigger role in their health care including wellness management. Middle age adults have enough mileage to realize that illness is not an abstract concept that only happens to others. They know risk factors pose a real danger to both personal stability and the ability to pursue their goals. What good are new dreams if your body can’t make the journey or you spend all of your time and resources on being sick?
The Pedigree Road Map™ gives the abstract world of risk factors and poor outcomes substance by adding an emotional dimension to what works and what proves to be disastrous. It personalizes the why and how of spending health care dollars and in doing so, offers middle age adults a new level of confidence in their ability to read the danger signs and chose a better outcome.