― Allison Plowden
Brown eyes and stubbornness are not the only things that can run in the family. Knowing your family’s health history is important for determining your risk for certain health conditions and diseases that can be inherited throughout generations. High blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes are all conditions for which your
family health history can indicate risk. With an up-to-date family health history, you can determine your own risk, plus the risk for your dependents and those you care for, then take preventative measures.
How do I collect my family health history?
Start by getting to know your family. If possible, create a family tree that spans at least three generations. This should include relatives like grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, half-siblings, nieces, nephews, and cousins. Next, begin to fill in the blanks. Include information on major medical conditions, causes of death, age at disease diagnosis, age at death, and ethnic background.
How can I use my family health history to improve my health?
While having a history of certain conditions is an indicator of your own risk, it is not a guarantee of inheriting the condition. Genetics is just one factor, as environment and habits can also play a role in your risk for disease. Staying active, eating well, and avoiding tobacco can certainly lower your risk for diseases like cancer and diabetes. In addition, screening tests, such as blood sugar testing, mammograms, and colorectal cancer screening help find
early signs of disease and can often mean better health in the long run.
Even if your family history is healthy, it does not mean a health event could not occur in the future, so you should always prioritize your health.