Knowing Your Family Health History Can Help You Prevent Some Diseases And Obtain Early Treatment For Others
Do you know your family’s health history? Pegasus senior care professionals in Verdugo City and elsewhere believe that knowing your history is essential. This article describes why you should care and how to gather relevant information.
Your health history is a record of the medical conditions of blood relatives. Certain conditions “run” in families. These include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- High cholesterol
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
A family history of one or more of these may put you at risk for the same condition. Risk only means there is a possibility of you developing the disease. Knowledge helps you reduce your risk.
Your Genes Hold A Key To Your Health
Although diseases occur for a variety of reasons, research shows most have a genetic component. Inherited genes have roles in many diseases and birth defects. Your health history provides clues to your genetic inheritance and risk factors.
Sometimes it’s just one gene that affects every generation. Sometimes it’s a combination of genes with other factors, such as poor lifestyle habits. These are known as complex or multifactorial conditions.
Genes are only one factor that can make you predisposed or susceptible to certain conditions. There are steps you can take to reduce your risk. That’s where knowing your family’s health history is valuable.
Your Health History Makes Better Health Care Possible
Your health care professional can use your health history to significantly lower your risk for certain conditions. They frequently start with assessing your susceptibility for each disease. They often then recommend the following steps to keep you as healthy as possible:
- Suggesting changes in your lifestyle habits if necessary
- Ordering screening tests to identify potential susceptibilities
- Starting preventive treatments or medications
- Ordering diagnostic tests to catch early symptoms
They may also suggest that you or family members undergo genetic testing. You’ll also learn if your children are at risk.
Your Family Is Your Best Source For Details
Learning your family health history can be difficult. Some individuals don’t like discussing their health. You may need to use all your diplomacy skills.
You’ll need to frame most questions carefully, with respect for privacy. Some individuals will be more willing to respond if you explain how the answers will benefit their descendants. Some want a face-to-face conversation while others prefer a phone call, text, or email.
You may need to promise confidentiality to others. You must also avoid passing judgment about what you learn.
If you can, look at records such as birth or death certificates to confirm or supplement what you learn elsewhere. Other sources of information include:
- Family trees
- Baby books
- Family Bibles
Any written record or oral history can contain gems of helpful information. There is no need to include data for anyone who isn’t a blood relative.
The closer you are related, the more relevant the information you collect is. Start with ancestors including your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and aunts and uncles. Then move on to siblings, nieces and nephews, and your children.
Questions to ask include, but aren’t limited to, the following:
- Medical conditions (exclude external causes, such as accidents)
- Cause of death
- Age at the time of death
- Lifestyle (were they smokers? obese?)
- Environment (did they live in a highly polluted area that may have affected longevity?)
- Work (exposed to harmful chemicals or toxins? sedentary desk job?)
- Personality (prone to chronic stress that affected health? risk-taker?)
Listening carefully to the answers will potentially generate more questions that yield the information you want.
Family Gatherings Are An Opportunity For Gathering Information
Experts believe that holidays and other family gatherings are the best time to ask questions. Accordingly, Thanksgiving Day has been declared National Family Health History Day. It’s an opportunity for everyone to express their concerns and share information.
Once you have collected as much history as you can, you will need to compile it. As noted above, it needs to be given to your health care provider. Discuss their preferences for written, oral, or digital presentations.
Your personal preferences and those of your family members will dictate how you share with them. Some individuals might want a loose-leaf binder. Others will want it on a disc.
If you want to make your health history available to others online, consider My Family Health Portrait. Data is shareable, printable, and easily updated. Family Health Record Keeper is a basic downloadable form on which you enter data manually.
Sometimes diseases are secrets, and other family members aren’t aware of them. History may not be available to adoptees. Obtaining details from estranged family members may not be possible.
Don’t guess at any answers. Any information you discover, even if it’s incomplete, can be helpful. Keep the records you accumulate updated for your descendants.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. We offer comprehensive senior care services in Verdugo City and our other locations. We provide whatever level of care your loved one requires to remain living safely at home.