Ever heard the expression, “skeletons in the closet?” Usually this denotes some deep, dark secret, but we are here to tell you that we all have skeletons in the closet when our family histories are concerned. It is important to realize that your family history can directly effect your health. Whether it be a history of diabetes, cancer, or heart disease, it is important to know your risks and what preventive measures or treatments are right for you.
Family members share more than similar looks. You may recognize that you have your father’s curly hair or your mother’s button nose, but it’s not so easy to see that your great-grandmother passed along an increased risk for both breast and ovarian cancer. That’s why discovering and knowing your family health history is important. Your medical history includes all the traits your family shares that you can’t see. These traits may increase your risk for many hereditary conditions and diseases, including:
- Heart disease and blood clots
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- High blood pressure and high cholesterol
If you’re eager to find out this information from your relatives, but not sure how to find out the facts, here are some questions you can ask to prompt a conversation:
- How old was my relative when they died, and what was the cause of death?
- Are there health problems that run in the family?
- Is there a history of pregnancy loss or birth defects in my family?
- What allergies do people in my family have?
- What is my ethnicity? (Some conditions are common among certain ethnicities.)
Knowing your own health history is important, but sharing it with your doctor may be more important. Once you’ve gathered this important information, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor can help you interpret what it means for your current lifestyle, suggest prevention tips, and decide on screening or testing options for conditions you may be more at risk for developing.
The genes you’re born with can’t be changed or altered, but if you know your family history, you’re one step ahead of the game. You can take the initiative to adopt healthier lifestyle habits. For example, you could decide to stop smoking or drinking alcohol, or to start exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight. These lifestyle changes may reduce your chances for developing hereditary conditions.
The “skeletons in your closet” can help you make informed decisions for you and your family members in regards to living a healthy lifestyle. To schedule an appointment with an IPG provider, call 888-452-IRMC (4762) or visit www.irmcdocs.org. We offer same day access and are accepting new patients.