It Runs in the Family – Holiday Health History

It’s Family Health History Day! With Thanksgiving underway, there is never a better time to talk to your family about their medical history. It may seem like a daunting subject, but when left untouched it may leave your family members open to medical risk – and frankly may also give relatives a chance to vent about their aches and pains.

Your family history is one of the strongest influences of understanding your risk for conditions, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and many others. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), America’s leading authority on disease, studies show that while 96% of Americans agree that knowing their family history is important, only a third have actually taken a look and gathered their family history.

Knowing your family history can help you and your doctor determine which screenings and tests are most applicable to you for preventative and interventional care. These screenings can be vital.  As is the case with many diseases, the earlier it’s caught, the better it can be treated. Family history can also help determine which lifestyle changes or behaviors may be most beneficial for you in preventing or managing a disease.

Screenings and medical history isn’t only helpful for adults. Children also benefit! This is particularly valuable in the face of certain medical myths such as the fact that Type 2 diabetes only affects adults. In reality over 3,700 young adults under the age of 20 are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the US alone. Understanding family predispositions can help reduce a child or teen’s risk of developing the disease.

While having chronic diseases in your family history in no way guarantees developing the same disease, there are conditions which are more heavily influenced not only by genes, but also by behavior and lifestyle that can be shared among close family members. Simply put, for your doctor to be more informed and conduct the best preventative screenings possible, is paramount. It’s easiest of course, if you know it yourself!

So take some time this holiday season to understand your family medical history including:

  • Info about the health of your past three generations of biological relatives
  • Age of diagnosis
  • Age of death and cause of death for deceased family members

Take particular note if someone mentions that:

  • Many close family members have or had a certain disease
  • Died earlier than expected
  • Had a condition uncommon for their sex
  • Had multiple conditions

Keep in mind that different ethnicities have different genetic make ups and experience disease differently. For more information, see the CDC report and talk to your doctor.

The holidays are a time to cherish family for so many reasons, but it can also be a chance to understand where you come from medically and where you may be going.