The January 1st holiday gives us a reason pause to think about what we’d like to do differently in the upcoming year. Health is a focus of the resolutions for many people, and the family health history is an important tool for promoting individual health. You will be surprised to find out how much your family elders know and are willing to share about medical history of family members when given the opportunity.
It can be challenging to broach the subject of family medical history, so here are five tips:
1) Ask elder family members for specifics about medical conditions that have affected family members. Include questions about how old a family member was when a condition developed and how the diagnosis was made.
2) Explain your motivations for asking questions about medical history, and be sensitive, open, and gracious to any information shared. If you sense hesitation from a family member, you can always ask for health history later in a different way such as an email or letter.
4) Share the information you discover with your doctor, and consider asking for a referral to a genetic counselor. GCs are trained to ask the right questions in order to determine increased risks, appropriate testing, and recommended health screenings.
5) If family health information is limited due to adoption or a small family tree, consider pursuing genetic information via other avenues. Speaking with a genetic counselor can help you discover more about your individual risk factors and options for testing even if family history isn’t available.
The most important thing is to ask the questions about family health history, not how they get asked. The details you discover might not only benefit you and your children, it can help other relatives as well. Wishing you a happy and healthy new year!