Family health history.  How important is yours in determining overall health?  What can it tell us?  Read more from Jemma Smith!



Is your family health history is something you think about only when you go to a new doctor, and then off the top of your head?  Unfortunately, that’s the case for many of us, but there are compelling reasons to start to think of your family health history as a powerful tool that can literally add years to your life.

Family health histories, when done properly, contain a wealth of information about some of the deadliest diseases and conditions that could affect your future.  Some conditions that tend to run in families are heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, strokes, and some types of cancer.  By taking the time to pinpoint instances of certain diseases and conditions in your family, you can help your doctor know what to look for and which medicines to prescribe or avoid.  This is also a good time to bring up family members storied about negative medication side effects especially for medications like Pradaxa.  With side effects that range from internal bleeding to death if a family member has had a bad reaction you might choose another medication to avoid side effects or worse, having to file a Pradaxa law suit.


Your family health history should go back as far as grandparents, and then be wide enough to include siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.  With this picture you can spot trends that may not be obvious in just your immediate family – for instance, your father’s family may carry a condition that causes miscarriages, but obviously he would have never been affected by that.

Actress Angelina Jolie made headlines when she went public with her decision to have a double mastectomy after learning she carried the gene for breast cancer. Jolie was 37 at the time of her mastectomies; her mother died at age 56 of a related cancer.  For some, though, the information comes too late – such as for college student Aqaulyn Laury, who found out of a family history of strokes only after suffering a stroke herself.


Knowing the red flags in your family health history allows you to take steps to minimize your risks.  For instance, if certain types of cancers run in your family, your doctor may set up a schedule for regular screenings.  Lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthier diet, getting regular exercise, and quitting smoking can help you lower your chances of developing heart disease and other common illnesses.  Less obvious but also important, your doctor should also be aware of your family health history before prescribing medications – cardiac disorders would be a red flag for stimulant prescriptions, for instance, or there may be allergies to certain medications.


Family health histories are so important that in 2004, the Surgeon General named Thanksgiving to be Know Your Family History Day, in hopes that families would share stories and gather vital information while they gather.  A great place to start gathering your own health history is on the Surgeon General’s Family Health Portrait Website.

QUESTION:  What do you know about your family health history??  Anything scare or concern you?


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