Thursday, 17 July 2014

Know your Family Medical History

Your family medical history, sometimes called a medical family tree, is a record of illnesses and medical conditions affecting your family members. You inherit half of your genetic profile from each parent. Along with the genetic information that determines your appearance, you also inherit genes that might cause or increase your risk of certain medical conditions. A family medical history can reveal the history of disease in your family and allow you to identify patterns that might be relevant to your own health.

Your doctor might use your family medical history to:
  •  Assess your risk of certain diseases
  •  Recommend treatments or changes in diet or other lifestyle habits to reduce the risk of disease
  •  Determine which diagnostic tests are appropriate for you
  •  Determine the type and frequency of screening tests
  •  Identify any other possible conditions that could arise
  •  Identify other family members who are at risk of developing a certain disease
  •  Assess your risk of passing conditions on to your children

Your family might want to work together to develop a family medical history. Consider kicking off the project at a family gathering, such as a holiday or reunion. Keep in mind, however, that some loved ones might be uncomfortable disclosing personal medical information — perhaps due to guilt, shame or a reluctance to face painful memories. You might want to consult family documents, such as existing family trees, baby books, old letters, obituaries or records from places of worship. Public records — birth certificates, marriage licenses and death certificates — are usually available in county record offices. If you or your family members maintain electronic personal health records, use them.

 If possible, your family medical history should include at least three generations. Compile information about your grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, siblings, cousins, children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren. For each person, try to gather the following information:

Sex, Date of birth, Ethnicity Medical conditions, Mental health conditions, including alcoholism or other substance abuse, Pregnancy complications, including miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects or infertility 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, Pay special attention to conditions that develop earlier than usual, such as high blood pressure in early adulthood, or conditions that affect multiple relatives. 

Give your doctor a copy of your family medical history and ask him or her to review it with you. Your doctor might ask you questions for clarification and can help you interpret the relevance of certain patterns in your medical history, including the need for preventive measures or screening tests. Going forward, update your family medical history every couple of years. Be sure to share updates with your doctor.

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