At an annual health check or consultation for chronic disease management, a patient is asked about their relatives’ health status. Healthcare providers record a patient’s comprehensive family history, including the patient’s close relatives’ health information, including children, brothers and sisters, parents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents, and cousins. By recording a patient’s family history, healthcare providers can identify the causes and patterns of a patient’s health journey. Why is this so important?

Importance of family health history

Families share similar genetic histories, environments, and behaviors. Collectively, these factors can point doctors to disorders that run in families. Healthcare providers can identify whether an individual, family members, or future generations are at a higher risk of a particular health issue by observing patterns of diseases among relatives. 

Identifying diseases through family health history

Your family health history can help to identify if you have a higher-than-average risk of common illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, certain malignancies, and Type 2 diabetes. A combination of genetic factors, environmental situations, and lifestyle choices influence these complicated illnesses. It’s important to become familiar with your parents and extended family’s health history.

Your family history might give you information about how to live a healthy lifestyle. You can plan for screening tests or adopt lifestyle changes to lower your chance of getting diseases that run in your family. It is important to inform your doctor if you know of any health issues in your family tree. Knowing your family’s health history can help you be more proactive about your health, and informing doctors of your family history allows them to suggest prevention and screening strategies to mitigate potential illnesses. 

To compile your family history, start by making a list of health issues or diseases that each family member has, including if they have died. The age of onset of illness should also be included in the report. Providers will add your family’s medical history to your records to ensure all information is captured. 

Your wellness plan

You can’t change your genes, but you can adapt your lifestyle to lower your risk of getting diseases that run in your family. Disease risks differ for each individual, which changes over time based on age, lifestyle choices, and changes in medical history. By keeping a current record of your medical history, updating your family’s medical history, and sharing it with your doctor can help prevent you from developing certain health conditions. Remember that your health includes both physical and mental issues. It’s also important to let your family doctor know if you have a family history of mental issues like depression. 

The more information your doctor has about your family’s medical history, the better care you’ll receive.

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