There are a number of diseases and illnesses that have been found to be linked to genes, which is why it’s important to share your family health history. By doing so, you’ll provide each other with the awareness needed to pinpoint any early warning signs and ways in which the onset of the disease can be prevented.
Scientists and doctors are continually exploring ways in which gene technology (you can hear more about this at Poseida) can be used to prevent diseases from being passed on to the next generation and by having a greater understanding of your family’s health history, it could prove to be lifesaving.
There are a number of things that can be explored when you look into your family’s health history, from similar behaviors and cultures to the environments you are living in. Each of these could play a fundamental role in the development of diseases, which is why being clued up on these and sharing this information with your doctor could help you and your family to live a long and happy life.
Important Information in Your Family’s Health History
When you delve into the history of your family’s health, these are things you should be looking out for:
Elderly family members: The older family members may be able to offer a more extended insight into the family’s health history, remembering those who are no longer with us and the illnesses they suffered from. Make sure all younger family members are provided with this information.
Adults: The medical history of the adults in your family could be crucial when identifying potential problems. For example, knowing if a female in your family, over the age of 50, has suffered from breast cancer, will allow younger female family members to think about seeking counseling or getting further advice from their doctor about this disease.
Young adults: If your family has a record of chronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes, this could indicate that earlier screening tests are required. For instance, cholesterol screenings at the age of 20 are recommended for any families who have a history of early onset heart disease.
Children: A number of medical conditions caused by genes can be identified at a young age, making the knowledge of your family’s health history fundamental in the early diagnosis of this in children. It’s also advisable to make your doctor aware of this.
Before / during pregnancy: The family health history of a baby’s mother and father could help to reduce the risk of certain diseases being passed on and may indicate if there are any possibilities of having a baby with a genetic disorder or birth defect. For example, if you suffer from sickle cell disease, there may be a higher risk of your baby developing this too. However, preventions may be available, e.g. preventing spina bifida by taking folic acid.
Collecting Your Family’s Health History
As you can see, the knowledge of your family’s health can prove vital in preventing potential diseases that run in the family. Collecting this information doesn’t have to be hard either, with tools such as the Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait being available. This helps you to put together the history of your family’s health, identifying any potential risks and providing a printable data sheet that you can share with other family members and your doctor.
When collating all of this information, you’ll need to speak to as many family members as possible, writing down all of the blood relatives that you need to contact. Ask them whether they suffer from any chronic diseases (e.g. diabetes or heart disease) and other health conditions (e.g. high blood or cholesterol levels) or serious conditions (e.g. strokes or cancer). Then find out how old they were when they were diagnosed with this and what other family members died of and at what age.
Having all of this information to hand and sharing it with your entire family will give you an idea of which, if any, diseases you are more at risk of. Then, if you are concerned about any of them, you can seek the advice of your doctor, who will be able to evaluate what risks are involved and how you can potentially reduce these risks.
Remember, no matter what age your family member is, a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise, healthy eating and no smoking are other key factors to living a long and prosperous life!
Emily Baldwin is a Mother of twin daughters who have just turned four. A work-from-home Mom she contributes to family blogs from time-to-time.