Talk About Your Family’s Health

If you haven’t talked with your family about their health history, then you should definitely make it a priority to do so. We rely so much on our annual physicals to tell us whether we are OK or not (and some of us don’t even do that) and we ignore one of the most important areas for the prevention of disease- our genetic makeup. Whether or not you want to face it, it is a fact that many diseases and conditions run in the family, and since early prevention is key for many health issues, you should have as much knowledge about your family’s health as possible. Learn what your risk factors are now so you can be prepared.

Depending on the relationships and communication you have with your family, it might be difficult or easy to talk with them about health. Either way, you want to open up the conversation because it will benefit everyone. At a minimum, you should talk to your parents, aunts, uncles, and your grandparents. First tell them why you want to talk with them, which should make it easier in case they are leary about talking over personal health issues. Then grab a pen and paper and be prepared to ask the following questions:

1. What diseases have you been diagnosed with? This can include heart disease, a heart attack, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, sickle-cell anemia, and any other disease that they may want to mention.

2. At what age were you diagnosed? Find out when the conditions were initially diagnosed. Were they diagnosed early?

3. Did any diseases cause death in the family? Find out if there have been any deaths in your family due to certain diseases and find out what ages the death occurred.

These three pieces of information are very valuable. Once you have talked to as many close relatives as you can, you should put all of the information together. You can share it with other people in your family because it truly is beneficial to all. At your next doctor’s appointment or physical, be sure to talk over the information with your doctor so he or she can have a record of your family health history. Your doctor can then tell you which tests you should regularly get for early detection as well as any lifestyle changes that you might want to make.