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It’s Family Stories Month – Time to Talk Family Health History with the Women in Your Family

Family Health History is Important

Knowing your family health history is a major step in predicting your own health future.

As we learn more every day about how genetics influence our lives, we can use that knowledge to be proactive in our healthcare. A family medical history is like a crystal ball – you can plan the screenings and tests and lifestyle changes you’ll need to either prevent disease or catch it early – even before symptoms ever appear.

It’s wonderful to know you have your grandmother’s eyes, but important to know if you are at risk for her diabetes.

What to include in your family medical history

Your family medical history should include information about your own health and that of your close family, including grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, children, even nieces and nephews. Ideally, it should include everything you can learn about at least three generations. If you have information on your great-grandparents, all the better!

For each person listed, include:

· Current age

· Ethnicity

· Presence of chronic diseases and allergies

· Major surgeries

· Cause of death and age of death, if applicable

Share with your medical providers

Your doctor can use your family health history to predict future problems and head them off early. Keeping you healthy is easier when a doctor knows that diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, or certain types of cancer run in your family, for example. It can help them to know if a difficult-to-diagnose genetic condition is part of your health heritage.

What your doctor will look for:

· Diseases that occur at an earlier than average age

· The same disease in more than one close relative

· Atypical appearance of disease in a person at low risk

· Combinations of diseases within a family which can present increased and additional risks

Having this information empowers you and your doctor to chart a course for a healthier future. Your doctor can:

· Identify higher risk for a disease

· Begin treatments or explore options to reduce the risk of disease

· Look out for red flags and early warning signs of disease

· Help you adapt lifestyle changes to decrease risk

· Schedule screenings appropriate for your risk factors

How to begin

The holiday season is a great time to sit down face-to-face with family members and gather what they know about themselves and about family members that have passed away. The information shared can only benefit everyone who participates, and the more information you can gather the more accurate and useful the history will be. Your great-grandfather’s minor operation may not seem relevant until you piece it together with the rest of your family history and today’s abilities to diagnose disease.

There are several tools and questionnaires online that can help you accurately collect information, such as the US Surgeon General’s “My Family Health Portrait.”

What next?

After you and your doctor have gone over your family history, you can make a proactive wellness plan.

We know more about health and disease prevention now than at any other time in human history. Rather than being afraid of what you may discover about your risks, consider all the tools you have at your disposal to create a healthier life than people one or two generations before could even dream about. The Coyle Institute has the expertise you need to accurately analyze your family medical history and how it can impact your health risks and future. After you have had the opportunity to gather and record your family’s information, schedule a consultation at the Coyle Institute to learn more about how you can live your happiest, healthiest and longest life!