‘Tis the season to sing carols, bake cookies—and collect important health information from your family. Yes, you read that right. This year, start a new tradition with your family. When you’re gathering around the ol’ Yule log, collect tales about your family’s health, too. Just as a detective uses clues to crack a case, you can use what you find out about your family tree to help predict—and possibly prevent—future health problems. Here’s how:
Why it’s important to know your family health history
Knowing which conditions run in your family can help you make informed choices about your own health. HealthCorps gives this example: “If you find out that an aunt and some cousins have diabetes, you may decide to lose any excess weight, begin an exercise program and get yearly screenings for diabetes. The same holds true for heart disease, certain cancers, arthritis and other chronic conditions.”
Who should be included?
According to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation you will want to collect health information about your “grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, siblings, cousins, children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren.”
Dr. Mehmet Oz recommends you include your spouse in your family health history. “Your spouse lives with you—at least I hope he or she does. That means you both share the same environmental exposures and, likely, similar risks. You serve as each other’s personal coalmine canary,” he says.
How to approach your family
Some relatives may be sensitive about divulging their health information. These tips will help you be sensitive about gathering info from your family.
Take our quiz for more information on how and why to collect your family’s health history.
Research by Cathy Poley
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File under: Healthy Holidays