Know Your Family’s Health History

June 22, 2021
Know Your Family’s Health History

Family history is a risk factor for many diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and high cholesterol. According to the CDC, most families have a history of at least one chronic disease. Learn why you should know your family’s health history and how to collect this information.

Knowing your family history can give you an idea of your own medical future.

  • Our genes carry traits that make us more likely to develop certain conditions.
  • We also learn behaviors and habits from our parents. If continued, these may lead to medical problems later in life.
  • Just because your parent has type two diabetes doesn’t mean you will. However, you may be more likely to develop it later in life.
  • Knowing your own risk factors can help you make decisions with your doctors about early screenings, blood tests, etc.

Certain diseases are heavily influenced by your genes.

  • According to the CDC, a few common diseases linked to genetics are:
    • Cancers such as breast, ovarian and colorectal cancer
    • Diabetes
    • Heart disease
    • Osteoporosis
    • Risk of stroke
  • Heart disease and related conditions are commonly carried through genes. Tell your doctor if anyone related to you has had high blood cholesterol, heart attack, cardiomyopathy or other heart-related conditions.

There are specific questions you can ask to find out more.

  • Your family may not be the type to talk about health concerns. That’s why you should ask questions.
  • Some older relatives may have a harder time remembering details. Specifically ask:
    • The age and cause of death of family members and their chronic illnesses
    • Any diagnoses for living relatives, and the age at which they were diagnosed
    • Any history of stroke, heart attack or cancer
    • Any health conditions, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • Your parents and grandparents are more likely to have passed their genes to you. However, you should also ask about the health history of your aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, and their parents.

Write it all down!

  • Take notes during your conversations.
  • Create a family tree diagram. Write down the names of your grandparents, their siblings, their parents’ names and so on.
  • Make sure you record both your mother’s and father’s sides of the family and both sets of grandparents’ sides of the family. Going back at least three generations is best.