Use our Cheat Sheet to guide your conversation with family members. This helpful guide includes who you should include in your inquiry, what topics to cover and tips for making the conversation easier.
"Does it Run in My Family?"
Mark Eakes, MD, MPH
Family Medicine, ACMC-Granite Falls
The holidays are a great time to reminisce with loved ones from both near and far. You discuss work, your children and where your next vacation will be; but what about your health history?
There are many visible traits we develop from our families. Maybe it's the curly hair you got from your grandma or your dad's brown eyes. But what about the traits we can't see? Your mom's high blood pressure, your grandpa's diabetes or your aunt's breast cancer.
Although it may seem like an unusual topic, discussing your family's health history can help you manage your future risks. Tracing illnesses that run in your genetics and consulting with your doctor could potentially save your life or the life of someone you love.
Chronic illness within your family tree can indicate your likelihood of developing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. This is especially true if your loved one developed the disease at a young age or without other contributing factors (overweight, smoking, etc.).
Family health histories can also be beneficial for those planning to start a family. By uncovering past difficulties with pregnancies and miscarriages, you can help prepare for additional screenings and precautions.
Of course, discussing ailments and the causes of death within your family is not always an easy topic. It is important to be compassionate and explain how your inquiry can be helpful to your whole family.
As we all know, we can't alter our genes. But if you are aware of your family's chronic illnesses, you are able to prepare for what your future may hold. This can include lifestyle changes to lower health risks and incorporating health screenings earlier in life.
Your family is one of the strongest influences on your life. Protect yourself and the ones you love by creating a health history. Because the questions you ask now, can save your life later.