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Talking About Family Health At Thanksgiving

November 21, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Talking About Family Health At Thanksgiving

From football to Christmas shopping and celebrations, you'll likely have a lot of topics to talk about with your family this Thanksgiving. But what are the chances your family medical history will come up?

Health officials say family gatherings such as Thanksgiving are a good time to talk about potential health problems.

Keri Mueller died suddenly at just 18-years-old.

"It was quite a shock," Keri's brother, Jay Mueller, said.

Not only was Jay devastated about his sister's death, the family started searching for answers.

"It's so important that we know because her first symptom was death," Jay's wife, Teddi Mueller, said.

Doctors suspected Keri suffered from a rare heart condition called long QT syndrome. The disease can be inherited.

That's why when Jay and his wife Teddi started having kids, they worried their children could also suffer from long QT.

"Jay came back with the gene that they found, so then we tested the kids and three out of our four kids have it," Teddi said.

By knowing about the gene mutation, the Muellers can try to prevent another death in their family by taking medication.

"It saves lives. It helps to know that kind of stuff if you can prevent it. We have so many things we can't prevent. If you can prevent something, the family should talk about it," Teddi said.

While your family may not have a specific gene like the Muellers, health officials say it's important to know your family's medical history.

"Having a family member with Parkinson's disease doesn't mean it's more likely to have another one with it.  But if you do have multiple people in the family with the same condition, that's when you start to wonder if it's genetic," Sanford Certified Genetic Counselor Quinn Stein said.

Stein also says age matters. If a family member dies at a younger age, such as in the Mueller's case, that's more of a red flag that the disease could be inherited.

"It's both Mom and Dad's side of the family that matter," Stein said.

Despite the diagnosis, the Muellers try to enjoy life and have fun. They also feel Keri is watching out for them.

"Without her passing away, we would have never known this," Jay said.

Some common diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, along with some rare diseases, can be inherited.

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