Why It’s Important to Know Your Family’s Medical History

Medical records

Think of all the funny little traits you get from your family. People might say you've got your mother's eyes, your grandfather's goofy laugh, or they'll offer their condolences on getting stuck with your dad's honker of a nose. It's amazing how such specific characteristics get passed through generations.

Unfortunately, not everything you'll inherit will be as fun as your dad's gigantic nose. Genes impact more than just eye color and height. They also play a big part in your health. How healthy everyone else in your family is and any medical conditions they have could have a big impact on you, and it's worth finding out. Here's why.

6 reasons to know your family's medical history


gathering your medical history by talking to relatives and use the Family Health Portrait Tool to save it.

  1. You can figure out if you're at risk for certain hereditary medical conditions.
  2. You can determine whether your children or other family members are at risk.
  3. You could diagnose an illness you didn't know you have.
  4. You can choose appropriate genetic or other medical tests.
  5. You can figure out if you might benefit from preventive measures against specific conditions.
  6. You can create a plan for lifestyle changes to improve your overall health.

Keep in mind though, a family history of a certain illness does not necessarily mean it will be passed onto you, so don't you convince yourself you're terminally ill just because you coughed while reading this article. Likewise, just because no one in your family has suffered a particular illness doesn't mean you couldn't get it yourself.

Knowing your family's complete medical history gives you and your doctor a truer picture of your health and plays a big role in preventing and diagnosing illness. Just consider it another tool in your arsenal to make good decisions about your health. So, for example, if you find out your family has a history of heart disease or hypertension, even if you don't suffer from it, you might be inspired to go for a jog now and again as a preventative measure.

Digging up your family's medical information


the no-cost Special Care Organizational Record if you have a child or adult family member with special needs.

All of that sounds well and good, but what if you just don't have access to your complete family medical history? If you're adopted, for instance, it's easier said than done to acquire all that information. Well, not to worry - you can still be proactive about staying healthy. Tell your doctor everything you do know about your background, including your race or ethnicity, to stay one step ahead of any potential conditions.

Try hunting down your adoption records and seeing if they include any medical history. Even if it was a closed adoption, you might be able to contact the agency to see if there was any stray information you can piece together about your biological parents or grandparents. But again, even if zero records turn up, you've still got ways to stay healthy.


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