As children our mother’s know everything about our health history. She knows what vaccines we received, what ailments we suffered from, even when we lost our first tooth. But how many of us know our own family’s medical history? While it may seem a tad uncomfortable to ask such personal questions from our parents, unlocking their health history many times can unlock the door to our own health.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 96% of Americans rank the need to know one’s family health history as important, however only one-third of us actually take the time to assemble this data. This information is vital not only for you, but for your physician or health care provider as it can help them to determine your risks for many health issues including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.
There are forms available from the American Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control which can assist you as to what information needs to be obtained. If you prefer to keep an online family history, you can visit the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office at the following Family History Link to begin your Family Medical Record Keeping.
For many a prime time for gathering such health histories is during a family reunion or family holiday, however, it is important to note for many parents this topic can be a little unsettling and you do not want to spring this on them without advance notice. Nonetheless, sitting down with them and explaining the necessity for you to know their medical history may help relieve some of the tension. But in all fairness give them the opportunity to compile the data. You may want to give them the list of questions they will need to answer well in advance. Attempting to remember the dates of any illnesses they may have suffered from or any treatments they may have received may require some investigation on their part, especially if they are offering medical histories regarding their deceased parents and/or siblings.
It is very important to be as specific as possible, while still respecting your parent’s privacy. Reassure your parents that this information is only to be shared with you, your doctor, and your siblings, if they so choose. Once you have the initial talk, it is time to determine what information needs to be obtained.
Below are some of the more commonly asked questions your own physician may need to know.
For many adopted individuals, you may want to ask your parents if they were given your biological parent’s medical history. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the adoption, this may or may not be an option.
While a family history will not entirely protect you from the development of certain diseases and/or conditions, they do serve as a vital resource for your physician and you. They allow your physician to determine your risk factors for disease therefore, providing you a means to adopt healthy measures to slow the disease process, avoid the disease process altogether, or allow your physician to closely monitor your health status for possible issues down the road.
Do you know your family medical history? If not, would you consider using the upcoming holidays as a time to gather such information?
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