5 Benefits of Knowing your Family Medical History

Your family’s health – past and present – can have a big impact on you. For some, that might be concerning news. However, there’s a silver lining. You can change your health trajectory through knowledge of your family medical history and prevention.

“Discussing your family medical history may not be an easy topic to bring up,” Director of CT and Keep the Beat heart screening program, Melanie Amick, APRN, said. “However, it can serve as a vital tool in disease prevention and managing one’s overall health.”

Take advantage of time spent with family and start conversations about your family medical history. When it comes to your health, there’s no time to waste.

When gathering information, no detail is too small and the more the better. To help you get started, Amick has provided important information you should collect for each family member.

  • Gender and date of birth
  • Every major or minor medical condition or diagnosis and date of diagnosis
  • Age and cause of death for those who passed away
  • Ethnic background
  • History of pregnancy loss or birth defects
  • Allergies
  • Environments, habits or behaviors that are shared

Once you’ve collected information, you can go one step further and use the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services web-based tool, Family Health Portrait. It’s an easy way for you to store, save and share your family history.

Below, Amick provides insight into the benefits of knowing your family’s medical history.

Detect your risk – It’s easier to detect conditions you are at high risk for when you know your family medical history. For example, if your mother’s family has a history of heart disease, your doctor can recommend the right screening or exam to detect the disease as soon as possible.

“Health screening exams can help detect early signs of disease, allowing for early intervention,” Amick said. “Knowledge of the family health history can help both patient and provider determine which tests are most appropriate.”

Diagnose possible conditions – You can be diagnosed with an illness you didn’t know you had. In fact, heart disease is often a silent killer.

“A person can have significant coronary artery disease while asymptomatic,” Amick said. “Symptoms of coronary artery disease are routinely related to everyday life. Sometimes, the first symptom is a fatal heart attack and therefore it is important for everyone to be screened.”

Decrease risk – Not all genetic diseases can be cured, but there are measures you can take to ease symptoms. Your doctor can recommend medications, therapies, or simple lifestyle changes that can decrease the risk of a more aggressive illness. For example, improving your diet and exercise can decrease your risk of having diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and more.

Defend your family – Knowing your family medical history gives you the option to make smarter healthcare decisions that can help your children and possibly end the cycle of suffering from chronic conditions that can be treated or prevented.

When collecting your family medical history, “offer to make the history available to other family members so they can share the information with their doctors,” Amick said.

Prepare for a visit – When visiting a new physician, you’ll probably have to answer a slew of medical history questions. Being prepared with your family medical history can help relieve the stress of answering them correctly, while also providing the doctor with a clearer picture of your health.

You may also consider our Keep the Beat screening program to further eliminate uncertainty about your health.

Know your risk with Keep the Beat

Our Keep the Beat program is an easy, comprehensive and cost-effective way to help you discover your risk for heart-related conditions.

“The Keep the Beat program has shown success in saving lives while offering an affordable, quality heart screening service to the community,” Amick said. “Patients receive detailed counseling on their individual test results and leave the appointment with a clear understanding of their heart health.”

Patients have found they have peace of mind about their current and future heart health after their screening.

“A patient may leave the appointment with peace of mind, require simple lifestyle modifications, follow up with a primary provider, or a cardiology consult,” Amick said “Educating the patient empowers them to take control of their own health.”

Learn more about Keep the Beat and schedule your appointment or purchase a gift certificate for a loved one.