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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

On Enlistment (pre-war) Would the Doctor Ask a Man About the Health of Relatives?


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I am trying to make up my mind if the army doctor missed something when James Stewart, 2652, enliste in the Black Watch pre war. His mother died of heart disease in 1894, aged thirty two, ones sister died of heart disease in 1902, aged fourteen and another sister died of heart disease in 1915, aged twenty eight. James collapsed and died in the street of heart disease in 1917, having been discharged as unfit, aged twenty five.

However, although he died of heart disease, he was discharged because of his wounds in June 1916. He had been wounded twice.

(I feel that he should be an "in from the cold" case, but there is no hope of that as the cause of death and the reason for discharge are different.)


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FIrst you would need to know what sort of heart disease each death  was due to.

Ischaemic heart disease can run in families, but aggravated  by smoking in many instances. Some types of congenital heart diseases might also be familial. I suspect that most cases of heart disease in youngsters, children and young adults then  was the valvular complications of rheumatic heart disease,  causing death from heart failure

 This isn't really hereditary.

Add in the fact that in those days, health was generally deemed to be delivered by the good grace of a superior being, and that early death was due to fate, enquiry into family history of disease was unfruitful, given that  treatments for such diseases was close to nil.

Edited by Dai Bach y Sowldiwr
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The entry on the death certifucate of one of the sisters includes valvular heart disease.

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Valvular heart disease can be a congenital abnormality, put more likely was acquired as a complication of rheumatic fever, which in the pre-antibiotic era was untreatable. This resulted in stenosis (narrowing) and/ or incompetence (leaking backwards) of the aortic and / or mitral valves. This  commonly caused heart failure, but additionally, the damaged valves were predisposed to further infection  down the line by bacterial endocarditis (often after dental work).

Given that all these infections were common in malnourished households, it is not unusual to see clusters of siblings and parents succumbing from the diseases. But they wouldn't be hereditary diseases.

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