Honoring National Family Health History Day

Happy Thanksgiving! Today is also National Family Health History Day. What exactly is family health history? It is a record that documents the health of family members, and their lifestyle habits, over the course of generations. It can be documented by anyone and doesn’t have to be a professional caregiver or physician. However, when coordinated with caregivers and physicians, the family health history can be that much more detailed. This is a good place to document the diseases and conditions that family members have developed, as well as their lifestyle habits and the environment in which they lived and worked.  <br><br>

 

For example, perhaps a family member contracted lung cancer. Did they work in a coal mine? Were they a smoker? Had any family members previously contracted lung cancer? These types of facts are as important to record as the disease itself. Without context, the disease itself may not be enough information for future generations.<br><br>

 

There are some diseases or conditions that may be common to the family, contracted by father,  son and grandson. The range includes diabetes, cancer, and depression. It is very important for women to know if family members have a history of breast cancer or heart disease. The likelihood of a child being born with some conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, can be determined with genetic testing if it is known that the disease existed elsewhere in the family.<br><br>

 

Recording the environment in which family members live and work is very important as it relates to disease states. For adoptive children, or those who marry into the family, if the environment is contributing to disease, they are at risk even though they may not be blood relatives.<br><br>

 

One’s genetic make-up cannot be altered. However, with insights provided by a family health history, work can be done to decrease personal health risks by amending and improving diets, increasing physical activity, and avoiding factors that adversely impact health. A health history can be an essential tool for a doctor. Together with the family, the doctor can assess inherent and potential health risks.<br><br>

Seniors benefit the most from family health histories. It gives them a “running start” to determine what steps they should take to live longer and healthier lives. The changes they make may positively impact future generations of the family.  <br><br>
A family health history can be kept as a chart or a book with specific pages for each family member. It’s a good idea to give a copy to the senior’s physician so that it can be included in the medical record. Gathering as much information as possible is a must. Knowledge is power. The more health knowledge a family has, the healthier the family can be.<br><br>

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