Family members share more than similar looks or personalities. You may recognize that you have your father’s curly hair or your mother’s button nose and cute smile. But it’s not so easy to see that your great-grandmother passed along an increased risk for both breast and ovarian cancer.
That’s why discovering and knowing your family health history is so important. Your medical history includes all the traits your family shares that you can’t see. These traits may increase your risk for many hereditary conditions and diseases, including:
- heart disease and blood clots
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- high blood pressure and high cholesterol
|Family members to include in your history||Family members you don’t need to include in your history|
|parents||stepparents and stepsiblings|
|siblings||adoptive parents and adoptive siblings|
|your children||spouses, unless they’re also related by blood|
|aunts and uncles||aunts and uncles who married into your family (meaning they aren’t siblings of one of your parents)|
|nieces and nephews||spouses of your siblings, unless they’re related by blood|
|grandparents and great-grandparents|
5 questions to ask
Here are some questions you can ask to start the conversation:
- How old was my relative when they died, and what was the cause of death?
- Are there health problems that run in the family on both sides?
- Is there a history of pregnancy loss or birth defects in my family?
- What allergies do people in my family have?
- What is my ethnicity? (Some conditions are common among certain ethnicities.), and with many mixed combinations of relatives, this is proving to be more and more important.