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640 S. 50th St., Ste. 1100
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Knowing Your Family Medical History Can Save Your Life

You might wonder why you’re required to answer questions about your family medical history when visiting a new doctor or filling out an insurance application. As important as proper nutrition, regular exercise and the avoidance of toxic behaviors are to your health, your genetic makeup is another factor to consider when evaluating your health risks.

A doctor can use this health history, along with other information, during the diagnosis and treatment of certain conditions, as well as for early screenings. The risk of many diseases—such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and other autoimmune disorders—can be inherited, making individuals with a family history of a specific illness more likely to develop that disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several key areas in a family’s history can signal an increased risk, including:

  • Diseases occur at an earlier age (10 to 20 years prior) than standard onsets
  • Certain disease combinations occur within a family
  • More than one close relative diagnosed with the same illness
  • A typically gender-specific disease is diagnosed in a member of the opposite sex

It’s important to ask your family about their medical backgrounds and to have a written history of the ages and causes of death of close relatives, most helpfully extending back for several generations. Research any diseases among close family members and the ages when the symptoms first appeared if possible. Update the information periodically as events occur.

While maintaining a healthy lifestyle is still the most effective way to reduce your risk of illness, familiarity with your family medical history can provide a useful tool in sustaining optimal long-term health and happiness.