Know Your Family Health History

If your great grandchild asked you if you could make him or her better, would you? Of course you would.

See this opportunity as a way of protecting those you love. Knowing your family’s genetic health history may save you suffering from, or preventing, undiagnosed yet predisposed diseases. Pay it forward a few generations by creating a Family Health History Tree.

By knowing your family’s health history you will be pro-active in discovering possible health problems earlier than later. Imagine if you found out there was a history of breast cancer in your family. Just think about how you would feel if your husband had developed prostate cancer at a relatively early age. But it could have been monitored early and possibly prevented had he known that his uncle had passed away from it.

A safe place to keep your Family Health History Tree would be with your will. Amendments to the Tree could be made as various medical facts are revealed about current and past family members.

The more everyone knows about a family’s genetic history, the better.Imagine being adopted and simply not knowing this lineage? Some of us are a little guarded or shy in sharing our own health history, even with family members. Here are a few ways to go about it.

At the next family function or reunion, have any older children present the concept of a Family Health History Tree as a “School Project”. It’s hard to turn down a possible life-saving health project such as this, especially when they want to do well in School.

Add a few pages into your child’s baby-book. But first send out the info page you need filled out to every adult person in your family.

Start the gift of giving for everyone’s future. Detail your own family history and give it inside a Christmas, anniversary or birthday card, as a sign of how much you love them and how easy it can be. There are even better occasions to start the trend, such as when a baby is born or at a wedding.

For example here are a few sample questions to ask to get the ball rolling:

Since we know many cancers can be passed on from generation to generation, do you know of any pre-existing conditions that could possibly be passed down such as cancer? Or schizophrenia? Or spinal muscular atrophy? Or Huntington’s Disease? Or Systic Fibrosis?

Can you remember if you have had all of your adult vaccines or childhood immunizations?

Can you remember every one’s history in your family as far back as records will show?

If you are the only one remaining in your family here are some places to start to generate some answers:

Funeral Home Records. These records can go back into the late 1900s, and often the Funeral Home keeps the records as they were originally kept “for public health purposes- to alert officials of diseases or trends of concern, especially in cities and populated areas”.

Obituaries. From the late 1800s, the obituaries section of newspapers are a very popular section. Earlier on they even detailed the cause of death; however, today’s era masks them or omits them completely.

At your next family gathering, make things fun and interesting by awarding prizes to the ‘team’ that comes up with the most inherited medical disease facts. Congratulations in then taking the preventative steps necessary and thinking ahead for your family’s future.

By Suzana