Family members share more than their looks. A son can recognize he has a bald head like his father or that his curly hair resembles that of his mother’s. Unfortunately, in most cases we cannot know that we have inherited from an ancestor an increased risk of having cervical or breast cancer. That is why you should be interested in knowing your family’s history.
Your family’s medical history has invisible traits, yet they can affect every member directly or indirectly. Some relatives are only carriers, meaning the symptoms of certain diseases do not manifest, but can be passed to the succeeding generations.
Discovering and understanding your family’s medical history is crucial for this reason as your medical history contains all the unseen characteristics that go through your family. Your risk of developing several hereditary illnesses and diseases, such as:
- Heart disease and blood clots
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- High blood pressure and high cholesterol
While investigating your family’s health history, the general rule is to check as many members as possible. There are three tiers of relationship a doctor asks for:
First-Degree Relationships: This is your immediate family – Mother, Father, Brothers, or Sisters. Due to genetic coding if any of these members have a hereditary underlying condition, there is an especially high chance it has been passed to you.
Second-Degree Relationships: This revolves around intergeneration – Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Nieces, Nephews, or Grandchildren. The reason for this is that members of your family may be mere carriers rather than showing symptoms. As such, a disease may skip a generation or two.
Third-Degree Relationships: This is more so a medical last resort – First Cousins. Essentially a mutation in your grandparents could skip not only your parents, but also your aunt/uncle, and reveal symptoms in your first cousin.
Why family history is important for patient diagnosis
It is important to know your family’s health history and it is essential to share it with your doctor. Historical data from families helps physicians interpret your genetic composition to recommend appropriate testing options or screening. Knowing a patient’s family health history can help a doctor diagnose your condition and arrange appropriate treatment.
Family data is important not only for doctors but also for nurses. After pursuing the University of Indianapolis online MSN-FNP program, you are better placed to use family history to provide care. The course equips you with sufficient knowledge on tracing symptoms and conducting successful follow-ups. Remember, you will cut your costs significantly because the program is available online.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to change your genes, even when they are the reason you are vulnerable to particular diseases. All you can do is learn about them to stay ahead of the game. This information also enables doctors to advise patients about the lifestyle they should adopt. For instance, based on your genetic makeup, the doctor might ask you to maintain a healthy weight by exercising, or you may be advised to quit alcohol and smoking.
How to gather family health information
Health is a sensitive issue; speaking about it with family members will not come naturally. Before starting the conversation, inform them about why you need the information. Tell them of the benefits they will also get when you share the information. At first, try to engage them in a one-on-one conversation and weigh their emotions.
When you are ready to collect family health information, there are several things to keep in mind. First are the major medical issues. Find out from every close member whether they have been diagnosed with a major illness at any time in their life. When it comes to genetic diseases, each one could be serious, debilitating or even life threatening.
Another factor to consider is the causes of death in the family. Find out the causes because this information will also be crucial to understanding your family’s medical history. The age of onset of illness is another determinant to establish. After identifying a prevalent disease in your family, find out from the affected member(s) at what age the condition was diagnosed.
Keep in mind that your ethnic background can influence the likelihood of suffering from a certain disease. Certain ethnicities are more susceptible to some diseases and health conditions. Dig deeper to establish your roots, and you may just understand why you are suffering from a particular ailment.