Connections - Passing down a lifestyle

Cindy Boyd has a history of breast cancer and heart disease in her family. She's trying not to pass it on to her daughters
Cindy Boyd has a history of breast cancer and heart disease in her family. She's trying not to pass it on to her daughters
The Boyd women
The Boyd women

Written by: Kim Hendrix - bio | email
Posted by: John Shryock - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Genetics play a big role in what you face medically, and knowing what's in one's past will help them make good decisions today that could very well protect their future.

"I feel like I know probably a lot about my immediate family," says Cindy Boyd, "my parents, maybe my grandparents." But she admits she probably doesn't know enough about her aunts, uncles or cousins.

What Boyd already knows about her family medical history is enough to encourage her to exercise as regularly as possible and set a good example for her daughters.

"I want them to be active. I want them to be health-conscious...," she explains. (

Cindy has five daughters ranging in age from 15 to 25 and her first grandchild, another girl! Knowing there is breast cancer in her family medical history, and heart disease, Cindy is taking the time to detail the past.

"It's tough to predict disease," says Dr. William Jones. In most cases your genetics, what's in your family medical history, doesn't have to be in your future.

Dr. Jones says, for example, you might have a gene that plays a big role in developing diabetes, but you might have another gene that cancels it out. As he puts it, "a spaghetti bowl of possibilities in terms of genetics and in terms of environment."

Doctors say people often blame genetics for their poor health when it's actually an inherited lifestyle. If your mom and dad smoked, didn't eat well and didn't exercise chances are that you now you do the same. That's something you can change.

Looking back Cindy Boyd remembers the gardens her father used to plant in her childhood years. "We always had fresh fruits and vegetables..." Cindy grew up with a good example and now she's passing it on.

"If you know now you can make changes and let them become a habit...," says daughter Callie Boyd, before it's too late to make those changes.

It's an inheritance of knowledge that could keep Cindy, Callie and her sisters a step ahead of any genetic problem, proving what's been in your family doesn't have to come around to you.

"Every step on the treadmill, for the person whose mother has diabetes, is a step away from diabetes for yourself " says Dr. Jones.

Being armed with your family medical history and what makes up a healthy lifestyle is a powerful combination.

To help you detail your family tree medically, click on the form in the red box at the top of this page. Then, download the form for each first degree relative: Grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and siblings and gather the information while you can.

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