Did you know that illnesses your family members—and even ancestors—suffered from may also affect you? It’s true, many diseases and conditions are genetic. Since 2004, the U.S. Surgeon General has declared November to be Family Health History Day as a way to get people talking about and aware of their family’s health history. It’s the perfect time, too, since we’re all gathered around the dinner table for Thanksgiving.

But it’s not enough just to talk about medical histories. It’s a good idea to document them, as well. Documenting family illnesses can actually help doctors predict which disorders for which you may be at risk. In fact, knowing if there’s a history of things like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and a host of other conditions can help doctors recognize and treat symptoms early, ensuring you have every opportunity to get help before it’s too late.

So, how should you go about documenting your family health history? Here are some tips to get you started.

Prepare And Organize

To start, it’s a good idea to do some prep and organizational work before you start having conversations. This is especially helpful if you have a big family, as the details could easily get muddled when there are a lot of people to talk to and keep track of.

Start by making a list of blood relatives, including parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins, etc. It might also help to talk to any half-siblings you may have.

Next, make a list of the questions you want to ask. This is most helpful because you want to gather consistent information from all your relatives. Some questions could include:

  • Do you have any chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, etc.?
  • Have you had any serious diseases such as cancer, or any serious health events like a heart attack or stroke?
  • When did you develop these illnesses?
  • What medications are you taking?

It’s also a good idea to ask questions about deceased relatives, finding out what illnesses they may have experienced, particularly any that were terminal.

Find A Good Time And Place To Talk

Conversations about people’s health are not always easy, so it’s a good idea to find a time that’s convenient for each person you speak with. Try to choose a time and place where they will feel relaxed, so that they’ll be more forthcoming about their own health issues. Be sure to tell them why you want to talk to them, highlighting how it could actually benefit them, too.

Take Good Notes

This is possibly the most important part. Be sure to write down as many details as possible. Even something that might seem insignificant can be important later on. Additionally, don’t be afraid to probe a little to get more details, such as when the relative contracted a disease, what medications were taken, and what the outcomes were.

Be Gentle

As mentioned above, talking about health issues can be a touchy subject for some people. Be respectful of your relatives’ feelings and assure them that you’ll share anything you find that could help them.

Do You Have Questions? We're Here To Help.

Do you have a health issue in your family’s history that you should be screened for? We can help. Contact us to discuss any health concerns you may have with a medical professional.

Please call Pain and Spine Specialists in Maryland at 301.703.8767, or 724-603-3560 in Pennsylvania to schedule a consultation or use the contact form on our website to send us a message.

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