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The Importance of Your Family Health History
Thanksgiving this year is also National Family Health History Day.
Understanding your family's health history is more important than simply knowing if your family has a history of cancer or diabetes. Your family’s health history can educate you about your family’s hereditary illnesses and how likely it is that someone will inherit them.
Unfortunately, the reality is that you might end up with the same illnesses that your loved ones have. While there is no guarantee you will get them, hereditary medical conditions oftentimes come unexpectedly. It is best to learn how to live an informed lifestyle that increases your chances of staying healthy.
Here’s how you can open the conversation to learn more about your family’s medical history.
How to ask for Family Health History
If you don’t know much about your family’s health history, you may have to ask someone.
Sometimes family members don’t open a dialogue about medical history because it may be emotional for them. After all, they may know loved ones who currently or have had to battle a genetic illness.
However, it’s important to begin this conversation so you can have an understanding of your family’s medical history. You’ll want to be open and honest with this discussion, telling them that you’re looking to learn more about what genetically could affect you in the future.
How to Start the Conversation
Start by speaking with someone you trust. Whether that’s one of your parents, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, or maybe a close family friend, you should bring up your questions about health history to someone who is honest and knows the family’s circumstances.
Tell them that you want to know what may be in the family and ask what they think your chances are for having the same conditions. You’ll want to choose someone who you think will be straightforward and give you as much detail as possible.
A few things you’ll want to ask are:
- Who in the family has what illnesses
- Ages and genders of loved ones who were diagnosed with genetic illnesses
- What were the causes and ages of death for relatives who had genetic illnesses
- Warning signs and symptoms of hereditary diseases
With all of this in mind, you’ll soon have an understanding of your family’s underlying medical history. Be patient and listen to your loved one throughout this discussion to get the best sense of your family’s health history.
Talk to a Doctor
The next step to understanding your family’s medical history is by speaking with a doctor. You can do this at your next visit, or you can schedule a meeting if you believe that you may need to be tested sooner.
Come prepared with all the information you have, including previous medical records and details about your family’s health history. The more you tell your doctor, the better advice and knowledge they can share about your family’s hereditary illnesses.
Be open and honest with your doctor that you are looking to understand what diseases your family has and that you would like to know your risks.
A doctor can also provide insight into how your genetics and current health may play a role in what illnesses you are likely to be diagnosed with. They can advise what steps you’ll need to take to ensure a long-lasting, healthy life.
Your doctor can also let you know what kinds of check-ups and tests you should regularly have, as well as how often you will need them.
Keep Track of Your Medical Records
If you haven’t thought about keeping your medical records, you may want to consider starting now.
Having a log of all your previous appointments, current health conditions, allergies, surgeries, hospitalizations, current medications, and previous doctor’s information can help you build an understanding of your potential risks to genetic illnesses.1
Furthermore, your medical records can show if you’re likely to contract a disease in your family. You can learn about the risk factors and which ones that you may be likely diagnosed for by simply keeping track of information after every appointment.
To get started, you can research different apps designed to keep track of your medical records. Options include Apple Health Records and Capsule. You’ll want to choose the app that meets your device qualifications as well as your personal needs.
Keeping track of you and your loved one’s medical history is the first step to preventing and catching illnesses early on. The more you monitor your family’s health, the better prepared you can be in case of a diagnosis.
Commonly Passed Down Health Conditions
While having a disease in your family doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll also get it, it’s good to know what some of the most common hereditary health conditions are.
- Diabetes. Diabetes is when your body is unable to produce glucose and carbohydrates.2 While there are different types of diabetes, researchers believe that some forms could be hereditary. You’ll want to learn to understand what kinds of diabetes are in your family and if you might be at risk.
- Cancer. There are some types of cancer, such as breast cancer, that are higher risk if you have someone in the family who has it. Consider learning these warning signs if you think that you or your loved ones might potentially inherit them.
- Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease affects your memory and the brain’s ability to function. Alzheimer’s can start early and progress over twenty years, and some people don’t know they have it until it’s too late.3 If your family has a history of Alzheimer’s, learn to detect the warning signs early on.
- Heart Disease. There are many different variables that can lead to heart disease, but some genetic factors that narrow blood clots can lead to heart attacks and strokes.4 You’ll want to inform yourself of the signs and how you can prevent heart disease.
While the list goes on more than this, you’ll want to educate yourself about some of your family health history’s most common medical conditions.
Start the Conversation This Thanksgiving
This Thanksgiving, sit down with your family and ask to have an open conversation about your family’s health history. The more informed everyone is about your family’s underlying conditions, the better your family can work to prevent and treat them should someone be diagnosed in the future.
Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- “Keeping Your Medical Records.” Saber Healthcare Group, saberhealth.com. September 3rd, 2020. Accessed November 23rd, 2020. Link: https://www.saberhealth.com/news/blog/keeping-your-medical-records
- "What should You Know About Diabetes?" Saber Healthcare Group, saberhealth.com. Published November 24th, 2020. Accessed November 24th, 2020. Link: https://www.saberhealth.com/news/blog/diabetes
- “The Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease.” Biogen, Identify Alzheimer’s Disease Earlier. Accessed November 23rd, 2020. Link: https://www.identifyalz.com/en_us/home/progression-of-alzheimers-disease.html
- “Heart Disease.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, mayoclinic.com. March 22nd, 2018. Link: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353118#:~:text=The%20term%20%22heart%20disease%22%20is,pain%20(angina)%20or%20stroke.