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Does Family History Affect Your Health: Our genetic makeup tells our unique ancestral stories. It also may offer a glimpse at our predisposition for certain medical problems.

Our genetic makeup tells our unique ancestral stories. It also may offer a glimpse at our predisposition for certain medical problems.

Although each of us is 100% unique, there may be reason to believe that our family's medical history holds valuable information about our individual health risk factors for serious illness like heart attack, stroke, and invasive cancers.

The Center for Disease Control and Department of Health and Human Services recommend asking your relatives about their known diagnosis of chronic diseases to help assess your level of risk. This is because if a blood related family member has ever suffered from a serious medical condition, you might be at higher risk to develop the same type of condition.

Questions for Relatives:

Have you ever been diagnosed with a chronic disease?

Have you ever had cancer, a heart attack, or a stroke?

Ask about when older relatives died, cause of, and age of death.

Make a list of questions before you talk to your family members and explain to them why you are asking. It can be helpful to learn as much as possible about onset, diagnosis, and effective treatments of serious illness or disease of your relatives.

This information doesn't just help to create a portrait of your individual risk factors. By documenting your family's medical history over time, you are creating a living record of family health data for future generations. The data you collect about your family is your family history.

Don't panic if you learn that you maybe predisposed to an illness; be proactive. Talk to your health care provider about what you can do to make lifestyle changes to lower your risk of suffering from specific illness and disease. Changing unhealthy behaviors is a good start. Diet and exercise are often key factors in reducing our risk for disease and illness. Some providers even offer DNA testing to provide you with a detailed genetic risk assessment for certain conditions. Of course, how you choose to gather your information is up to you.     

What To Do If You Are Concerned About Your Family Medical History:

While it may seem hard to imagine, any of us can become ill suddenly and without warning. Having a picture of your family health history and a sound financial plan are effective ways you can help to protect your loved ones should you become incapacitated. Consider what your family might face if something were to happen to you.

For example: what would your family do if you became too sick to work? How long do you think you could survive on cash, credit cards, and other means? Unexpected gaps in employment and bills due to serious illness (chronic, critical and terminal) can have a life altering impact with the onset of a sudden medical problem. Therefore, it is important to have a solid financial plan in place in the event that you become do become seriously ill. By planning for this unpleasant possibility, you can rest easier knowing that your family will have one less thing to worry about if the unfortunate happens.

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Sources:
https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/famhistory/
https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/famhistory/famhist_adults.htm
https://www.hhs.gov/programs/prevention-and-wellness/family-health-history/about-family-health-history/index.html    

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