4 Easy Steps for Learning About Your Family’s Health History


Family members often share many common traits, such as the same language, the same genealogy and the same last name. What many families don’t realize is that they also share a health history.

Knowing Grandpa’s history of diabetes or that your Aunt Karen is a breast cancer survivor can be critical to living a healthy lifestyle and taking preventative steps. For example, knowing your family’s history of heart disease should encourage you to adopt a healthier diet and be more active. This is also invaluable information to share with your doctor, so they can help you determine if you’re at risk for a future illness or disease.

Genesee Health Plan recently invited elementary students at Brownell-Holmes STEM Academies to collect health history information from family members. They wrote terrific essays about what they discovered, and we believe this knowledge will empower them throughout their lives.

If you’re wondering how you can research your personal health heritage, like the students at Brownell-Holmes did, here are four steps for talking to relatives about their health:


1. Create a list of relatives to interview.

The most important relatives to gather information from include parents, grandparents and siblings. You can also talk to aunts, uncles and cousins who’d be open to sharing their medical information. If you have family members who are deceased, speak with a living relative who can share information about deceased’s medical history.


2. Develop a list of questions.

When you’re ready to interview your relatives, the Mayo Clinic recommends asking questions about existing medical and mental health issues, any pregnancy complications, the age they were when conditions were diagnosed, and current lifestyle habits such as diet, exercise and tobacco use.

As you talk to family members, pay attention to trends and or any conditions that affect multiple family members. For example, if you find out both your mother and grandmother developed arthritis in their late twenties, this is a valuable piece of information to record and eventually share with your doctor.


3. Share your findings with your family doctor.

Sharing your family’s health history with your doctor gives him or her the opportunity to gain a better idea of your overall health and answer any questions you have. In addition, if you’re concerned about your risk for a specific disease, your doctor can provide you with more insight and offer solutions for reducing potential health risks.


4. Talk with your kids about their health heritage.

If you’re currently raising a family, it’s especially important to teach your children about your family’s health history. Many parents don’t immediately realize how their family’s history of heart disease could also impact their children’s health. By talking to your kids about their health heritage, you can empower them to make healthy choices from a young age and encourage them to be more aware of potential health risks as they grow into adults.

We can all take steps to learn more about our health heritage. So, the next time you visit a relative, sit down together and ask them about their health. What you learn may surprise and inspire you to take preventative steps that can improve the quality of your life and keep you healthy.

Did you recently learn about a relative’s health history? Share your stories with us on social media at facebook.com/GeneseeHealthPlan or twitter.com/geneseehealth.


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