Family Health History, Why Your Doctor Needs To Know It

Family health history can be critically important for a doctor to know. It sets a baseline from which your doctor can more accurately diagnose what and why something is bothering you. And it does help to more effectively design a treatment protocol that will help you. Our health comes from both our genes and our lifestyle, and both come from our parents.


family health history



Family Health History: Fill Out the Forms, Please

On our first visit to a new doctor, we’re given a pad and pen and asked to check off any diseases, medications, and conditions that we have had. Any surgeries, allergies, and vaccinations? Are we allergic to penicillin?

There is also a section for Family History. Any serious illnesses like cancer or a stroke your parents, grandparents, and siblings have or had? How old were they when the health problem started? If any of them have passed away, what was the cause of death and how old were they when they died. Other questions will focus on your family’s lifestyle and diet, and yours too.


Family Health History: Genes Matter

If one of your relatives had a certain condition or illness, your odds of also getting it are higher. Some illnesses that can be passed down include:

  • Diabetes
  • Dementia
  • Certain types of cancer
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Asthma
  • Heart disease
  • Blood clots
  • Arthritis
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure

Family Health History: Genetic Testing

In recent years, genetic testing has become more popular. People want to know if they carry genes that may trigger serious illnesses. Not knowing does trigger a high level of anxiety for many people.

For example, certain ethnic backgrounds and races may be predisposed to conditions for which a genetic test is useful. Indeed, women of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry have an increased risk for breast cancer. A specific gene mutation is more common in these women than in other women. Genetic screening can help the doctor detect this gene mutation and prepare for early treatment options.

Although genetic tests can help identify potential risks, it does not mean that you too will get the disease. Results may show you have a predisposition to several conditions. Seriously consider the benefits and concerns you may have with knowing your genetic risk factors before you do any testing.

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