A family medical history is a record of illnesses and medical conditions currently affecting or that have affected members of your family. Knowledge about your family medical history is important as it gives you and your doctor insights into your risk of having or developing certain diseases.
It can also reveal the history of disease in your family and can help you identify patterns that might be relevant to your own health.
You inherit genes from both your birth parents; not just genes that determine your physical appearance, but also those that might cause or increase or decrease your risk of certain medical conditions. So a family medical history can help provide insights into your own health and disease risks.
How Your Family Medical History is Used?
In assessing your health, your doctor or primary care provider may use your family medical history to:
- Assess your risk of certain diseases
- Recommend changes in diet or other lifestyle habits to reduce the risk of disease
- Recommend medications or treatments to reduce the risk of disease
- Determine which diagnostic tests are most appropriate for you
- Determine the type and frequency of screening tests
- Determine whether you or family members should get a specific genetic test
- Identify a condition that might not otherwise be considered
- Identify other family members who are at risk of developing a certain disease
- Assess your risk of passing conditions on to your children
A family medical history doesn’t predict your future health, but it does provide information about risk. Other individual factors that affect your risk of developing certain diseases include your diet, exercise habits, and other lifestyle routines.
Getting Your Family Medical History
Compiling your family medical history can be a tedious job; that’s why not a lot of people take the time to get it done. A good place to start could be at a family gathering, such as a holiday or reunion. If you’re the initiator of this project, you should keep in mind that some relatives might be uncomfortable sharing their medical information with you.
In collating this information, besides medical conditions of family members, other data you should be looking at getting includes:
- Date of birth
- Age when each condition was diagnosed
- Lifestyle habits, including diet, exercise and tobacco use
- For deceased relatives, age at the time of death and cause of death
Other sources of information you should also consider are family documents and public records, family trees, birth certificates, marriage licenses, death certificates etc.
For adopted kids and adoptive parents, you may be able to get historical medical information about the biological parents at the time of adoption or from the adoption agency.
What Next After Compilation?
Once you’re able to successfully gather your family medical history, the next step would be to share this information with your doctor who will be in a better position to interpret this information and recommend preventive measures based on this history. It is also important to continually update your family medical history with any births, deaths, or new illnesses in family members.
As part of the SentinelX membership, your Sentinel will help you compile and maintain your family history. Get started with SentinelX today!
SentinelX is a membership-based health practice that emphasizes preventive, personalized, and continuous care. We combine human touch with technology to make primary care cheaper, faster, and more accessible to enable you live your healthiest life.