The Surgeon General’s Family History Tool is a great means of plotting out one’s family history. I decided to input my family’s history and what came into focus was anxiety and high blood pressure. On both my mother and father’s side, there has been a long history of anxiety and high blood pressure. I don’t know if these two things exist because of each other or if high blood pressure is a symptom of anxiety, but it is worth noting how these instances of anxiety and high blood pressure persist even through my own medical history. While the focus of this essay was going to be on anxiety, because high blood pressure is so prevalent and can lead to heart disease, it is important to couple anxiety and high blood pressure together to understand why they may appear together and what may cause such issues to arise in one’s family history.

High blood pressure can be passed onto family members that share genes, specifically share the same lifestyles, environments, and behaviors (CDC, 2014). Risk for development of high blood pressure increases based on race, age, and ethnicity. Black people for example, have the highest rates of high blood pressure.

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The prevalence of high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) in African-Americans in the United States is among the highest in the world. More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic African-American men and women have high blood pressure. For African-Americans, high blood pressure also develops earlier in life and is usually more severe (American Heart Association, 2016).

This could be for several reasons like obesity and diabetes that also run high in black families compared to Asian families for example, but going back to high blood pressure, it seems there is an underlying genetic component that may be due to how the body handles stress.

Evident in white families, stress and anxiety seem to often be coupled with high blood pressure. A recent journal article notes how stress management, specifically, reduction in anxiety, helps program participants improve their blood pressure lending credence to the idea that reduced anxiety and alleviate blood pressure. “Based on research findings, stress management training with spiritual therapy as a useful method of improvement of anxiety, quality of life and blood pressure in patients with high blood pressure” (Alhornia, Banjiamali, Bahrami, Hatami, & Ahadi, 2014, p. 1). If high blood pressure and anxiety exist within the family, there could be changes made to decrease anxiety (potentially brought on by stress) and thus improve high blood pressure. This provides a great transition point to the next section.


Lifestyles and environment plays a major role in whether genetic inheritance poses a threat to one’s health. I have persistent anxiety and high blood pressure run within my family. That means that I need to assess what is going on within my family that may generate so much internal stress. A good way to explain how something like these two conditions can be passed onto a family member (if I have a child in the future), is best done through generating an example.

Jennifer has anxiety and high blood pressure run in her family. She herself experiences daily anxiety attacks and has noticed an increase in blood pressure. Her mother works a stressful job and must take both an anti-depressant and blood pressure medication. Her father takes blood pressure medication. Both work stressful jobs that result in 12-hour work days five days a week.

When they are at lunch or at home, they snack on high sugar, high salt foods to ease their anxiety. They have gained weight, especially around their mid-section and do not focus on exercise or ways to combat stress like meditation. Jennifer stays at home most of the time when not in school and eats salty snacks along with candy. She doesn’t exercise and only drives to school.

If one looks at this example, one can see that the lifestyle and environment can lead to perpetual complications of anxiety and high blood pressure. Eating salty and sweet snacks while provides short-term relief from anxiety, promote obesity and an environment for high blood pressure. The parents not preparing meals allows for the child to eat more processed food. Not taking steps to improve anxiety leads to these behaviors.


Thanks to this tool, it is fairly easy to see what kind of issues are prevalent in families. While one can discuss things verbally, it is also important to understand that a visual representation can be best. As some researchers note, visualization of health problems leads to improved synthesis of information. “The preliminary results highlight the potential of this approach for validating known knowledge and suggesting opportunities for further investigation that may contribute to improving prediction of asthma risk in children” (Chen et al., 2015, p. 396). By providing a visualization of the information, one can then try to make connections and see what can be done to avoid health complications.

I for example saw that anxiety and high blood pressure may be connected. Now that I understand those two things may play a role in how I promote within myself, wellbeing, I can decide to take active measures to decrease anxiety and improve my health. This is the kind of information I would tell those within my practice. I would let them see and understand what can be discerned from information already available via family history.





American Heart Association. (2016). High Blood Pressure and African Americans. Retrieved from

CDC. (2014, July 7). Family History & Your Risk for High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) | Retrieved from

Chen, E. S., Melton, G. B., Wasserman, R. C., Rosenau, P. T., Howard, D. B., & Sarkar, I. N. (2015). Mining and Visualizing Family History Associations in the Electronic Health Record: A Case Study for Pediatric Asthma. AMIA Annu Symp Proc, 2015, 396-405.




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