Understanding Your Health and Your Family’s Medical History


Losing a loved one is never easy. But what if you can learn something from their death? Something about their medical history that could potentially help save your life? Understanding your family’s medical history is imperative for determining potential health threats. Here’s why you need to document and understand your family’s past medical records, what to do with this information, and how it can help you remain healthy.

Why It’s Important

Prevent strokesUnless your biological relatives died due to an unexpected tragedy, wrongful death accident or suicide, there was likely a medical cause for their passing. Their medical history is one of your greatest assets when it comes to identifying, preventing, and understanding your risk for conditions like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Certain illnesses are genetically passed and if your family member suffered from them, it puts you at greater risk. Having this information arms you with the knowledge to detect and prevent these conditions before they becoming life-threatening.

How to Find It

So how do you go about accessing your family’s medical history? This can sometimes be complicated, especially if they are no longer living. The best place to start is collecting information from three, biological living relatives. You’ll need to know exactly what conditions they had and at what age they were diagnosed. You’ll also want to note if the family member affected was on your maternal or paternal side of the family. This is especially important if you’re a female and other females in the family were diagnosed with cancers such as ovarian, breast or cervical. If someone in your family is deceased due to an illness, try to find out how old they were when they died.

There are other risk factors to look for. This include:

  • Multiple family members that suffered from the same disease
  • Any diseases diagnosed at a relatively young age
  • A condition that is uncommon for the gender of the sufferer
  • A combination of conditions

Doctors aren’t at liberty to release medical records for family members that are still living. Hopefully, you have a close enough relationship with your direct family to find out the information you need to know. When a loved one dies of a specific cause or condition, be sure to make note of it. Just because your family member was diagnosed with a certain disease doesn’t necessarily mean you will be, but you can still take measures to improve your current lifestyle and prevent the onset of illness.

Preventative Care

After you document your family’s medical history, your primary doctor can help determine your level of risk based on your current lifestyle. Your doctor may also perform screenings or tests to better understand your current condition and level of risk. Once this is determined, you can start making the necessary lifestyle changes.

Which Diseases to Look For

Now that you understand the importance of finding out your family’s medical history and how to discover this information, here are some of the most common illnesses and procedures for determining your risk.


neck cancer

One of the most common hereditary illnesses that most people fear and research is cancer. This is where genetic testing comes into play. Genetic testing looks for mutations in a person’s genetic makeup. These mutations can increase a person’s risk for cancer. What’s interesting is that passing diseases like cancer from one generation to the next is not always due to an inherited mutation. A shared lifestyle can also be to blame. This is especially true if some members of the family smoke cigarettes in close proximity to non-smokers. Genetic testing can identify these mutations and then determine whether or not you have hereditary cancer syndrome.


Diabetes affects over 29 million Americans and knowing the warning signs and risk factors is an important step in treatment and prevention. A mix of genetic factors, environment, and lifestyle can increase your risk of developing diabetes. Although type 1 diabetes can be hereditary, other external factors can also cause this condition including viruses and cold weather. Type 2 diabetes is more common than its counterpart and can also be, in part, attributed to genetic factors. If your family member suffered from type 2 diabetes, your risk is significantly increased. Other factors include obesity, depression, family history of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and a sedentary lifestyle. You can reduce your risk by maintaining an active lifestyle, eating well-balanced meals, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Heart Disease

risk of heart disease

Heart disease, when combined with high blood pressure, can have underlying genetic causes. Much like cancer and diabetes, it’s not just the heredity factors at play but also environmental and lifestyle similarities that can cause a family history of heart disease. Unfortunately, heart disease does not discriminate when it comes to gender or ethnicity, meaning that men and women from all walks of life are at risk for this disease. The most common ways to reduce your risk of heart disease are very similar to the ones already mentioned. Maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle that includes a balanced diet are your greatest defense against heart related conditions.

Educate Yourself

Education and knowledge about your genetic background is essential for staying on top of developing or potentially harmful conditions. Once you know that a certain disease or illness is present in your family history, you can take the necessary steps to positively alter your current environment and lifestyle.

Article Submitted By Community Writer

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