Family ties are one of a kind. No one knows you as your family does. When surrounded by your family members, you’re the strongest, or in some extreme conditions, you might be the weakest.
There are billions of different families, and each one is very unique.
Some families look like, some have identical behaviors, while others have an identical physical appearance. All in, different families have different features.
Knowing your family tree goes much further than knowing your ancestors, it goes to your health.
Knowing your family health history can save someone’s life and can even help people better understand their well-being, both physical and mental. What is exactly a family health history?
Family health history is a unique record of the disease and overall health conditions running through your family.
You may not like your family or your relatives, but you cannot deny that you share genes.
You might even share behaviors, such as writing style, exercise habits, and food preferences.
You may not like how alcohol tastes, but your brother or sister, might enjoy it – it just means that you got different genes, and therefore different preferences.
You probably had at least one relative who was far from drinking, and you were lucky enough to get those genes.
Family history includes many factors, that can eventually affect your health.
Family Medical History
The family medical history should be a standard when it comes to collective and individual health.
You have at least heard once your doctor asking you if anyone suffers from diabetes, obesity, or even sleep-related conditions such as sleep apnea? They ask you this to understand your current health conditions.
By knowing the past you can deal with the present much better. Your family doctor might know some parts of your family medical history, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t know it as well.
Still, you should be well-informed on family health conditions now and if there are any medical conditions that your family is prone to. By knowing your family medical history you can actually understand your risk of disease.
Your family medical history, also known as a medical family tree is a simple and straightforward record of illnesses and various medical conditions affecting your family members.
How Is A Family Medical History Used?
You are your parent’s child. Therefore, you inherit half of your genetic information from each parent. No one can know for sure how much of each parent you might inherit.
Genetic information determines your appearance and your health state.
On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that you may inherit only the poor features, you may inherit genetic material that will keep you extra healthy, and keeping you at low risk for certain health conditions.
A family medical history can show the history of the disease in your family and help you to identify patterns that might be crucial for your health.
Your doctor might use your family medical history to:
- Understand better underlying issues
- Recommend changes in diet and lifestyle
- Recommend treatments to reduce the risk of disease
- Determine what to test and why
- Determine if your family member should undergo a specific test
- Identify and underlying conditions
- Assess your risk of passing conditions on to your children
It’s important to note that family medical history serves as a tool to understand your health better, and not like a know-it-all solution that can predict the future.
Not even the best organized and most informative family medical history reports cannot help doctor estimate when you will die.
They aren’t meant for that. They are more of informative nature.
Does it provide enough risk information? Yes, any family medical history provides more than enough information about heart risk.
However, family medical history isn’t the only thing that can contribute to a better understanding of your health.
Other factors are relevant as well, including:
- Exercise routine
- Exposure to environmental factors
All in, different factors can lead to developing certain diseases.
How Can I Collect My Family Health History?
You may know a lot about your family’s health history, or very little.
To get the complete picture, you will need to talk with your relatives. You will have to do your own research.
Here are some ideas that can help you gather the right data:
- Check existing medical records
- Check death certificates
- Collect information about your parents, and other relatives
- Use family gathering to discover more about health condition in your family
What’s The Best Way To Gather Family Medical Information?
If there is no recorded data on your family’s history, you will need to invest your time and energy to create one.
Even if relatives laugh at you and ignore your questions, you need to be persistent.
Keep in mind, when someone gets sick you will have all the right information a phone call away.
Here is how to create family medical history fast and effective:
- Use family gatherings to present them your new project
- See who is interested in helping you and note the date and time when you can have a meeting one-on-one
- Prepare questions in advance
- Focus on deaths where the cause is unknown
- Don’t trouble yourself with getting all information
What Information Should Be Included In A Family Medical History?
You should collect information for at least three generations.
If you could collect information further, that would be great, but information on three generations should be enough.
Gather information about your grandparents, children, nieces, uncles, aunts, nephews, and grandchildren.
For each person you should collect the following information:
- Date and place of birth
- Medical conditions
- The time when the first medical issues occurred
- Mental health conditions
- Information on alcohol and substance usage
- Pregnancy complications, including infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth
- Any type of birth defects
- Lifestyle habits, including diet and tobacco use
- For deceased relatives, you should know how old were they when they died
Pay attention to conditions that develop earlier than usual, such as high blood pressure developed at an early age, or specific conditions that affect multiple relatives.
Also, include information about where your relatives came from – for example, Germany, Thailand, Ghana, Australia, etc, and even states.
This can be important because specific conditions are tightly linked to a specific area.
Last, but not least, share your knowledge with others and invite them to collaborate in the future.
You could make a copy and even upload it online and tell relatives to add things as they discover.
Plus, there will be new marriages and new additional your family and that should be added as well.
What If You Are Adopted?
Don’t think that there is no information if you are adopted. You just might have to look harder.
If you’re adopted, ask your adoptive parents if they hold any medical information about your biological parents at the time of your adoption.
In most cases, adoption agencies also might have medical information on hand. Try contacting them, or let your adoptive parents do that for you.
For additional information, you can go through family documents, explore the existing family tree, baby book, old letters, even obituaries, marriage licenses, death certificates, and all other records that are usually available in-country record offices.
There is also an open adoption process, and if you are adopted through one, you might be able to discuss your family’s medical history directly with your biological family.
Once You Gather The Data What’s Next?
Give your doctor a copy of your family medical history and ask to review it together with you.
Your doctor might ask you additional questions to understand better your medical history and learn how to treat you.
You should help your doctor interpret the relevance of certain conditions and patterns for clarification – this way your doctor will see if there is any need for preventive measures or screening tests.
Again, as children are born and family members develop new health conditions, update your family medical history. Share any relevant updates with your doctor.
Creating useful and informative family medical history might take time, but it will be worth your time and energy, It might actually save lives.
The Bottom Line
Knowing is great, but if you don’t act upon it your family medical history won’t be useful. You need to act upon your family’s health history.
Your aunt had breast cancer? Talk with your doctor about when you should have a mammogram, and if it’s the best solution for you.
Do you have a crazy need for sweets? Check your family medical history for diabetes.
You can’t change your genes, but you can definitely learn from them. Use your knowledge of your family medical history to be healthier.
In the meantime, change any bad habits such as smoking, or excessive coffee drinking. Exercise, But avoid heavy exercise time before bedtime.
Change your diet and avoid heavy food before bedtime. Have occasional test checks, such as screening tests for blood results, cancer screening, and mammograms. Sometimes the best cure is early prevention.
Finding disease early can mean a healthier and better life in the long run. Use your family medical history to help you live longer, healthier, and happier.