Why You Need To Know Your Family’s Health History

Family members generally share looks. But their similarities actually go far beyond this, particularly in the realm of health. Your great grandfather might have given you his nose – something that you can see – as well as his risk of developing heart disease, something that you can’t see. 

What Conditions Can Family Members Pass On? 

There are many different conditions that family members can pass on from one generation to the next. In other words, there is a higher propensity for certain diseases to show up in particular families compared to others. These include diabetes, cancer, asthma, heart disease, arthritis, depression, high blood pressure and dementia. 

If you know the diseases present in your family, you can more easily prepare for them. You can live your life in a way that minimises the chance of developing these conditions, and you can get help preparing for them with your doctor. 

Which Family Members Matter? 

Not all family members matter for health – only those related to you by blood. For instance, the health history of your parents is tremendously important. However, if you have step parents, their health doesn’t have any bearing on yours. The same applies to aunties and uncles who married into the family. In terms of biology, they are unrelated to you. 

It’s a good idea to trace back your family medical history as far as you can. Start with your great grandparents and then trace your lineage forwards from there, looking at the various diseases that people got along the way. In many cases, you won’t notice any pattern at all. However, if the same conditions keep cropping up over and over again, then you will need to look out for them. 

What Information Should You Find Out About Your Family’s Health History? 

When learning more about your family’s health history, it’s essential to gather the correct data. 

It could be beneficial, for instance, to collect information on causes of death. Usually, you can find this on the death certificate. 

You can also see whether a particular family member had any major medical issues while they were alive (or if they are still alive), to see if you are at risk of any chronic conditions. You don’t need to bother with infectious diseases, as these are not inherited in most cases. 

You’ll also want to explore family members’ ethnic backgrounds. Ethnicity can put you at a higher risk of developing certain conditions. Pacific islanders, for example, are more likely to develop diabetes than the general population. 

Common environments and behaviors may also influence disease outcomes. Check what aspects of your living conditions could be affecting your health. For instance, mental health and clutter are highly correlated. 

How To Use Family History Information

Once you gather health information about your family, the next step is to use it to design your healthy living strategy. In some cases, you won’t need to do anything. However, in others, you should take action. 

Going to your doctor should be the first step. They’ll tell you if you need to change your lifestyle in any way. 

The next step is to collect any medications that you might need. As Simple Online Doctor explains, there are now multiple online channels for this.

Beginning medications early can help prevent diseases from developing to the point where they become more serious. 

Lastly, you can stop unhealthy behaviours, such as alcohol and smoking. While cessation isn’t guaranteed protection, it can dramatically reduce the chances of hereditary diseases from developing in the first place. 

If you don’t have complete information about your family medical history, you should still give what you have to your doctor. They can make recommendations based on the information that you present. They may, for instance, determine that you need annual breast exams to check for any unwanted growths if you have a family history. 

Is Genetic Testing A Good Idea? 

Some celebrities promote the idea of doing genetic testing for diseases and then taking action based on that. For instance, certain people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent are more likely to develop breast cancer than the general population. 

However, genetic testing doesn’t tell you everything. Most chronic diseases that people fear, such as cancer, are not solely genetic. More often than not, there is a significant environmental component. 

So while genetic testing will be able to provide you with some helpful information about your health, it doesn’t give you a complete picture. 

In summary, knowing your family’s health history can tell you which conditions you are predisposed to. However, your health status will always remain somewhat individual. 

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