May 13, 2018—This Mother's Day, take time to do something that's all about family: Use the day to collect a family medical history.
Getting a better look at your family's health is one of the first steps of understanding health risks for both you and your children. But where do you begin?
It all starts with family
Most families know that at least one chronic disease runs in their family, such as cancer or heart disease. And if a family member has it, your chances of getting a certain disease may also increase. The more members of your family who have it, the more your risk grows.
Here are a few first steps for starting on your family medical history.
Use a family gathering. On a holiday, you often see more of your family. This is the perfect opportunity to talk about their health history. Collect information on as many family members as possible. Your grandparents, parents and full siblings are important, but so are half siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. But not everyone likes to talk about their health, so don't press if someone doesn't want to share.
Plan your questions. Be as specific as possible. In addition to finding out current medical conditions, ask about causes of death, ages at disease diagnosis, current medications, miscarriages, disabilities, and ethnic backgrounds. Write out your questions beforehand, so you don't miss anything important.
Update often and share. This information is useful, but medical history changes. Make sure to keep up with those changes. Then share what you've learned with younger generations.
You can use this handy tool from the U.S. surgeon general for organizing your family's health history.
How do I use it?
Discussing your family's medical history with your doctor is the ultimate goal, so your risks can be assessed on a regular basis. But once you share it, don't let that be the end of your hard work.
Even if you're at high risk for a condition based on family history, there are steps you can take to reduce other risk factors. That may include eating better, moving more and quitting smoking. Sometimes, it means earlier screening tests. No matter what, gaining knowledge of your family's medical history brings you one step closer to better health.