By Kenneth Kronlund, MD, FACP
Medical Director, Quality and Patient Safety
Did you know that sharing details with your healthcare provider about your family’s medical history and ethnicity can help impact your long-term health in a positive way? With family members gathering for the holidays, it could be the ideal time to talk about creating a family medical history that will benefit everyone.
Along with lifestyle choices and environmental factors, genetics can influence your susceptibility to certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even some types of cancers.
Knowledge of your family’s health history allow you to take key steps that may reduce your risk of future health problems. For instance, your primary care provider (PCP) may recommend more frequent screenings for cancer or at an earlier age if they feel you are at increased risk. Your healthcare provider may also require regular testing for a specific condition that runs in your family or is prevalent among people of your ethnicity, such as type 2 diabetes or sickle cell disease.
To obtain a full understanding of your family’s health history, ask your relatives, if possible, about their health problems and at what age they were diagnosed. A complete record should include information from three generations of relatives including brothers and sisters, parents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents, and cousins.
The Office of the Surgeon General offers a tool called My Family Health Portrait that allows you to easily enter, print, and update your family health history. In addition, the American Medical Association (AMA) provides family history tools, including questionnaires and forms for collecting medical information on their website. The National Institute on Aging website also provides tips and suggestions on how best to obtain a health history from older family members.
We all share traits such as facial features, athletic ability, hair color and more with our family members. Since the genes we inherit can also influence our health, being aware of your family’s health history can be an important way to work with your healthcare provider on avoiding certain medical conditions and staying healthy.
About Kenneth Kronlund, MD
A physician for over two decades, Dr. Kenneth Kronlund has spent his entire career at Reliant Medical Group. Starting first in Urgent Care, he then became a practicing internist. Asked why he decided to make internal medicine his career, Dr Kronlund explains, “I chose to be an internist because I enjoy treating the full spectrum of medical issues that affect people as opposed to just concentrating in one area. But I think the biggest...View profile View posts by this doctor