One way to predict future health problems

February 17, 2016 | by George Aghia, M.D.

Have you ever wanted to peek into the future? Well … maybe you can! By knowing your family medical history, you can reduce the risks of developing health problems down the line. Family medical history is one of the most important risk factors for diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Tracing illnesses in your family can help your doctor predict your medical future and proactively monitor your health. If both your parents have high blood pressure, you too have a chance of developing it.

Though you can’t change your genes, you can change unhealthy behaviors like smoking, poor eating habits and lack of exercise that affect your health. A study by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services found that 96 percent of Americans believe that knowing their family history is important. Yet, the same survey found that only one-third of Americans have tried to gather and write down their family's medical history.

The Center for Disease Control recommends you collect information about your grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, siblings and children. The type of information to collect includes:

  • Major medical conditions and causes of death
  • Age of disease onset and age at death
  • Ethnic background

Once you have gathered the information about your family, share it with your doctor. Collecting your family medical history can help your doctor:

  • Assess your risk of certain diseases
  • Recommend treatments or changes in lifestyle, such as diet and fitness level
  • Identify a condition that needs to be tested or screened further
  • Examine other family members’ risk for developing a disease, and determine if you are likely to pass on a medical condition to your children

By knowing your medical history, your doctor may suggest regular checkups and screenings. Both checkups and screening tests can be used to detect diseases at an early stage. Screening tests can look for thinks like breast cancer, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

How do you stay healthy? Tell us in the below comments.

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