It’s Important to Know Your Family Health History
Documenting your family health history could save your life. That’s because the more information you collect can help your doctor look for and detect early signs of medical conditions that may run in your family, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Having this vital information will allow you and your doctor to begin taking steps toward preventing and managing the same ailments that affected other members of your family.
Ideally, your family health history should include information from three generations of relatives, including children, brothers and sisters, parents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents, and cousins. Schedule time to talk with them, starting with the oldest family members since they are more likely to know the health details of previous generations. Be sure to ask them the following questions for any deceased family member:
- What was his/her age when he/she passed?
- What was the cause of his/her death?
- Was he/she ever diagnosed with anything? If so, when?
Remember to gather the family history for both sides of the family, from your mother and father. You may be surprised how often the same diseases are passed down from each generation. While some conditions are genetic, they may also be related to lifestyle choices like smoking or unhealthy dietary patterns. If the same problems appear on both sides of the family, you may be at greater risk. Once all the information has been gathered, document what you have learned.
This is an invaluable diagnostic tool that will help your health care provider have a clearer picture of what to watch for in your health and might call for additional screenings in specific areas. Also, you may consider sending copies of your family’s health history to relatives so they can share it with their families and doctors.
Collecting information for your family’s health history should be an ongoing process
updating it as often as possible. Plus, it’s a great legacy to pass on to future members of your family to help them live longer, healthier lives.