What diseases run in your family? Has anyone ever been diagnosed with cancer? Who?

Sound familiar? These questions, along with many others, are just a few that may be asked during an annual checkup. Personally, I answer these questions willingly, but I never take into consideration how important my answers can be. When it comes to health, a family tree can reveal a lot about you, and it may even lead to early detection. As a result, it’s important to create and share your family health history with your health care provider so that you and your family can benefit from it.

Why Create a Family Health History?

When it comes to different diseases, a number of them are genetic, meaning they come from a mutation or a change in a gene that is inherited from one or both parents. Some of these diseases include:

-Alzheimer’s Disease       -Diabetes
-Dementia       -Heart Disease
-Asthma       -High Cholesterol
-Blood Clots       -High Blood Pressure
-Cancer       -Stroke
-Depression  

 
By creating a family healthy history, you are educating your doctor on the diseases that run in your family. That way, they can test you accordingly.

How to Create a Family Health History

The first step in creating a family health history is talking to your relatives. While it’s most important to speak with first-degree relatives, such as siblings and children, it’s also important to get into contact with nieces, nephews and cousins. Make a list of people you want to get in touch with, as well as a list of questions you want to ask them. Some questions to ask are:

  • Do you have any chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma or high blood pressure?
  • Have you had any serious illnesses, such as cancer or a stroke?
  • How old were you when you developed these illnesses?
  • Has anyone in the family had any birth defects, learning problems or developmental disabilities?

Don’t worry if you can’t get to every relative. Whatever information you do acquire will be helpful. For relatives who are deceased, try asking other relatives for information about their health histories. If possible, get copies of medical records or birth and death certificates to document the type of health condition diagnosed. As children are born into the family and relatives develop illnesses, remember to add new information to the family tree. The family health history can be passed down from generation to generation, with each generation adding current information.

Sources:
http://nihseniorhealth.gov/creatingafamilyhealthhistory/familyhistoryanddiseaserisk/0.html

Melanie Marzillo
Research & Community Education
Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living