Family History

Family History: Important for Your Health

Family history work turns spiritual hearts to fathers and creates eternal bonds as temple and sealing ordinances for ancestors are performed. This great work can also have health benefits for our physical hearts, and the rest of our bodies, as we learn our family medical histories.

Knowing your genetic risk factors can lead to more frequent checkups and lifestyle changes. Photo credit/permission:

Knowing your genetic risk factors can lead to more frequent checkups and lifestyle changes.
Photo credit/permission:

Families have common factors related to health, including their genes, environment, and lifestyle. These can give clues to conditions that may be genetic or tend to run in families. By noticing patterns among family members, healthcare professionals can determine risks for individuals or even future generations.

The importance of asking questions cannot be overstated. Talk at family gatherings about health and medical conditions. Key details to discuss include diseases and age of disease onset and causes of death and age at death. Death certificates and obituaries are important sources for this type of health information as well.

A complete record would ideally contain information from three generations of relatives: you and your siblings, your parents and their siblings (and their children—your cousins), and your grandparents.

Sharing family medical history with a doctor is key. Photo credit/permission:

Sharing family medical history with a doctor is key .
Photo credit/permission:

Ethnic background plays a role, as some diseases tend to manifest in certain groups more than others. Some DNA tests include a focus on medical history and not just ethnicity. This could be a beginning step, but the information would need to be evaluated in the context of a person’s overall health and family history. With an accurate history doctors can assess risk factors and recommend lifestyle changes to help prevent disease or prescribe tests for early screening. Further genetic testing may be suggested if needed. Even with inherited forms of disease, steps can be taken to reduce risk.

The Mid-Atlantic Guide for Patients and Health Professionals explains the benefits of knowing one’s medical history: “People with a family history of disease may have the most to gain from lifestyle changes and screening tests. You cannot change your genes, but you can change unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, inactivity, and poor eating habits. In many cases, adopting a healthier lifestyle can reduce your risk for diseases that run in your family. Screening tests (such as mammograms and colorectal cancer screening) can detect diseases like cancer at an early stage, when they are most treatable.”

Even if you don’t have a history of a particular health problem in your family, it is important to keep a health history up to date and to share it with a doctor regularly. Being aware of your health history is an important part of a lifelong wellness plan.

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