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I am guessing that you have a family medical history folder that’s a lot thinner than most. Many people wander through life taking notes from observing others, yet they fail to take notes to save their health as they age. Medical records are kept by doctors for years, and these men and women do this to keep track of your health. However, if the doctor cares enough to take care of your health, why shouldn’t you?
Knowing your family medical history reduces the risks of you or your loved ones developing serious health conditions. In some cases, it could even save your life.
The U.S. Surgeon General reports that 96 percent of Americans believe that their family medical history is important but only one-third have tried to collect it.
What Is Family Medical History?
A family medical history is a record of the relationships among family members along with their medical histories. This includes current and past illnesses. A family medical history may show a pattern of certain diseases in a family.
However, a family medical history can take many forms, including the following: A record of your family with you as a child, containing recollections of your parents and other living ancestors. A record of your family with you as a parent, containing recollections of your children and your other descendants.
By following these simple steps, you can start a valuable family tradition.
How To Keep Records
You will need a journal. In the journal, you want to record dates, time, place, etc of your hospital stay. If possible, jot down the diagnostics and doctors who served you, and write their names in the journal.
You want to record your family’s medical history. Jot down each person in your family tree and name the diagnosis. For instance, if your family has a history of diabetes, jot it down. On pen and paper, jot down any information that will help your doctor monitor your health and make an accurate diagnosis in the event illness occurs.
Do not rely on your memory. In time, you may not have memory, since your family may have a history of Alzheimer’s disease. When you use medical records, keep them on paper, and make copies. Put the copies in safe hands, someone you can rely on, as you grow older to give the copies to you in the event you lose your copies. Put all your copies in a safe area.
You want to keep records of vaccine shots or immunizations. You want to keep records of lab visits, results, conditions, and treatments you obtained. The records should be updated annually. For instance, if in 2020, you were diagnosed with a disease that caused your liver to shrink, but the disease was curable, write it down. The next year if you notice in similar symptoms, record the new information in your journal. You want to give copies to your doctor as needed.
Once you write your medical journal you can move to research illnesses you might have had at one time. For instance, if in your history you had a repetition visit of colds, learn more about the upper respiratory system. If you had other illnesses throughout your life, take time to study these illnesses. Understanding the illness moves to acceptance, which moves you to prevention.
Gathering Your Family Medical History
Seize Opportunities at Family Gatherings.
Since 2004, Thanksgiving has been promoted as National Family History Day by the Surgeon General. Any time your family gets together can be a great occasion to start a conversation, so take advantage of reunions, birthdays, and other special events.
Explain Your Purpose.
Let people know why you are asking personal questions. Family medical data provides vital clues about health conditions for which you may be at higher risk.
Traceback three generations. Start with your immediate family and then extend your research to include more distant relatives like cousins. Going back three generations makes it easier to spot patterns, like multiple cases of specific cancer or early-developing arthritis.
Prepare Your Questions In Advance.
Visit websites like My Family Health Portrait to learn the questions you need to ask. Important information includes chronic illnesses, causes of death, and ethnic backgrounds.
Draw A Family Tree.
Discovering more about your ancestors, celebrating family traditions, embracing your culture, and understanding where you came from can open your eyes to how beautiful and unique you are. It can also give your sense of self-worth and belonging a boost. Many people find it helpful to draw a family tree to organize the data. Pictures also help kids to get involved in the project.
Confirm Personal Stories.
Knowing your family medical history is life-saving. Families can share many things that can increase your risk of getting a health condition, including:
- lifestyle habits (poor diet, lack of exercise, or smoking).
Many health conditions develop due to a combination of factors including lifestyle choices and environmental factors, such as sun exposure. This means that in most cases family history alone is not enough to cause a condition to develop.
Knowing that some conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers tend to ‘run in the family’ can be a sign you are at increased risk.
If you know of these conditions you should let your doctor know so that they can help you identify things you can do to reduce your chance of also developing the condition. Use official documents like birth and death records to verify the information. Memories may get fuzzy over time or people may have misunderstood some details.
Accept gaps in knowledge. Identify areas of uncertainty rather than risk making false assumptions. For example, consumption could refer to tuberculosis or to several other respiratory diseases.
Approach Sensitive Issues with Tact.
When it comes time to discuss what matters, here are 10 tips for handling difficult conversations with family.
- Expect a positive outcome.
- Set a time and place.
- Set a time limit.
- Set some ground rules.
- Bring up the issue.
- When someone is speaking, listen.
- Examine your assumptions.
- Be okay with being wrong.
- Wrap it up.
People may find it distressing to discuss unpleasant experiences. Reassure them that the information will be handled responsibly and speak with them privately if it helps.
Using Your Family Medical History
Keep a Journal.
Now it is time to document your findings or simply keep a record of your work. Write everything down or make an audio or video recording. Journaling allows you to get “outside” your head, in a sense. It enables you to get your thoughts and feelings down on paper, analyze those thoughts and feelings, and then work through them in a healthy, holistic way.
Share Your Discoveries with The Whole Family.
The best way to thank your family for participating is to share the information with them. Send them a special email or create a family newsletter.
- If family members are uncomfortable with broadcasting their medical histories in detail, you can disclose general findings without discussing what happened to whom.
Consult Your Doctor.
Presenting your doctor with a complete family history enables you to get better treatment, including early screenings when needed. Your doctor can also explain how various factors are likely to impact your individual health.
Consider Seeing a Genetic Specialist.
In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a genetic specialist. As science uncovers the hereditary basis for many conditions, specialized treatments may give you options your ancestors lacked.
Protect Your Privacy.
The confidentiality of your family medical history is covered by The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Your state may also have laws that provide additional protection.
Keep Your Records Updated.
Make your family medical history an ongoing project. Update it every year for new births, deaths, and other events.
Adjust Your Lifestyle.
The most gratifying thing about this whole exercise is that you can often dramatically improve your chances of avoiding or managing even the most serious conditions. Improving your diet and exercising, along with following your doctor’s recommendations, could help you live a longer and more productive life.
Preventative Health Care
Prevention is the keyword you want to focus on when it comes to your health. As you age, your body’s functions start to decline its actions, which puts you at high risk of disease. Using your family medical history, you want to study illnesses, you may have had throughout your lifetime. In addition, use your records to study genetic diseases. For instance, if you have a family history of colon cancer, research the subject. Take notes on diagnostics, treatments, cures, and so on.
If you follow this friendly advice, as you start to age you will have advantages. For instance, in the future, if you are diagnosed with diabetes, you would possess knowledge. The first thing you will note is the symptoms. Firstly, you would know that the symptoms include prolonged hunger feelings, fatigue, dizziness, etc.
You would take notes on symptoms that emerge when you feel sick and immediately contact your family doctor. You are at the doctor’s office now taking lab tests and so forth to find out what is wrong with your body. Once you leave the doctor’s office with your results you will feel relaxed, since you know that catching diabetes at an early stage gives a doctor the opportunity to slow or cure the mother of all living diseases.
This silent tormentor is a notorious killer that everyone should understand. To learn more about healthy aging, seek more information online, at your doctor, or visit your local library.
Our well-being is a combination of genetics, environment, and lifestyle. Learning about your past gives you more control over your future. Once you know your family medical history, you and your children can make better decisions about your health.
Lastly, I cannot overemphasize the value of journaling. It helps you declutter your mind, which leads to better thinking. Writing in a journal also sharpens your memory and improves your learning capability. There is a reason why when you take the time to pen your thoughts, plans, and experiences, you remember them better, while also feeling more focused.
Grab our free planner to help you record the necessary data regarding your family medical history.