Getting answers to the questions about your family health history may require conversations that you have never had with your family members.
What is Family Health History?
Family health history refers to diseases and health conditions in your family. It is important for you to pay attention to your family health history, because you and your family share the same genes. Genes are considered the basic unit of heredity, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute. Genes are passed from parents to offspring and contain the information that determines physical and biological traits.
You and your family share the same genes, so you may also have the same behaviors and traits and your family health history includes all of these factors. When your doctor asks about your family health history, it's usually to determine if you have a higher than usual chance of developing a chronic condition or disease.
How to Gather Your Family Health History
Knowing your family health history can help you understand your own health, in advance of issues arising. Family health history can be traced back to close relatives, such as your parents and siblings, but also to more distant relatives and even your ancestors. Talk to your close relatives first. For information about more distant relatives, family gatherings are a great way to learn this information. Try to get information about your grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is important to collect information about major medical conditions, causes of death, age at diagnosis of disease, age at death and ethnic background.
Remember that just because a relative has a disease, does not necessarily mean that you will. It's also important to remember that people without a family history of health conditions or chronic disease may still be at risk for developing a disease. The best thing to do is to check in with your doctor regularly, at your annual preventive care exam and at any point that you have a health concern.
Using your Family Health History to Improve your Health
Knowing your family health history can help improve your health and improve your lifestyle. You can’t change your genes, but you can change behaviors that can lead to poor health. Unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, physical inactivity and poor eating habits can be passed down and make people more susceptible to chronic diseases.
According to the CDC, screening tests, such as blood sugar tests, mammograms and colorectal cancer screenings, help detect early signs of disease. You also have much to gain by knowing your family health history.