During the holidays people often focus on giving and thanks. I encourage you to add a new activity to your holidays that will ultimately be a blessing to yourself, your family, and generations to come. It will also provide an opportunity to talk about previous and current generations, and reminisce in the process. This year, consider using your family gatherings as an opportunity to create a Family Medical History.
Doctors and scientists identify that your Family Medical History can hold a key piece to unlocking the mysteries in your health.1 Many symptoms we experience can be attributed to multiple conditions, so knowing if certain diseases tend to run in a family gives the treating physician a starting point for evaluating those symptoms.
The hardest part of attaining a Family Medical History is that health is not a common topic of conversation unless someone is ill. However, this year as siblings, children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and/or cousins gather, try starting a new family tradition of discussing health. Think of it as a type of tribal story telling across generations. Together you all may be able to remember what medical conditions deceased family members had as well. You may even be surprised of the memories and stories that are shared in the process. We tend to forget our parents and grandparents lived many adventures before we were born.
A complete Family Medical History includes information on three generations of relatives, including children, brothers and sisters, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins.1 However, do not fret if you have an uncle no one talks to or a deceased relative that no one can remember what conditions they may have had. Likewise, you may have a relative who is reluctant to share their health history, and that is ok too. Please remember to be sensitive to their feelings, and let them know that any information they may be willing to provide will be helpful. Compile the information into an electronic copy that you can share electronically with family not in attendance to fill-in the spaces, and to pass to future generations also. However, do not wait until you have information on every relative to share your Family Medical History with each of your physicians. It is not likely that you will be able to get detailed information for all relatives on both sides of the family, and that is ok. Give your physician the most up to date and complete medical history you have, and you can update the files as you learn more.
Consider giving thanks for life by compiling a health history with your family this year. This important stepping stone on the path of health is a great gift to share with one another! Who knows, it may even open up some great opportunities for story- telling and reminiscing.
Click HERE to download a Family Medical History form to use.
- National Institutes of Health: Genetics Home Reference. Why is it Important to Know My Family Medical History? https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/inheritance/familyhistory. Accessed October 17, 2016.
Written by Marci L. Hardy, PhD
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