Know Your Family Health History

When going to a doctor’s office for the first time, you often have to fill out a bunch of papers, among them a form detailing any medications you take or health conditions you have. That same form asks about health conditions of family members too.

While many people consider their health information private (and rightfully so), knowing the health history of your parents, siblings, and even cousins can help doctors find patterns and identify health problems that run in the family.

Although you may not necessarily develop the same health conditions as your family members, you definitely have a higher risk of developing them due to the genes and lifestyles (diet and exercise) you share. If your doctors know of those higher risks, they may recommend more frequent checkups or more frequent screenings starting at an earlier age to reduce your risk.

The easiest way to get this information is to talk to your family members and ask them about their health. Family gatherings during the holidays are the perfect time to bring it up, and it doesn’t have to be weird or awkward.

Questions to Ask Your Relatives

Do you have any chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes, or health conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol?

Have you had any serious diseases, such as cancer or stroke?

How old were you when you were each of these diseases or health conditions was diagnosed?

What is our family’s ancestry? (Certain diseases occur more often in particular groups of people than in the general population.)

For relatives who have died, be sure to ask about cause and age of death.

Written by: Anna Limoges

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