When you go to a doctor, you are inevitably asked about your family history. Did your parents have heart disease? Did anyone have diabetes? What about cancer?
Do you know? What was that procedure grandma had twenty years ago? Didn’t cousin Bessie take some sort of medication for years? What ailment sent Uncle Max to the nursing home?
Memories of these illnesses that are so intense and vivid when we are in the midst of them fade over time as we move on with our lives and endure other challenges and experience life’s happiness. The details that we think we’ll never forget are lost.
But they’re important because they give clues to you and your children about your own health prospects. Certain diseases run in families including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, some types of cancer, asthma and autoimmune diseases.
If you know your risks, you can take more precise preventive measures. Then, in addition to getting an annual mammogram, you can be more watchful for those certain things, potentially catching a disease in its early stages, when it is more easily treated.
The time that most people become intensely interested in answering the questions is when they encounter a major illness, such as cancer. Then the family history becomes vital in helping doctors make a diagnosis and treatment decisions.
But what if you didn’t wait? What if you asked now instead of later, when people have forgotten even more or aren’t around to ask? You could establish a medical history legacy that would be good not only for you but also for the coming generations. It could a priceless gift to your children and their children and their children who also might put off asking.
It would be like passing along a genealogical history, but with the medical information that could make a huge difference. Creating this history will take some basic detective work and asking a few questions. Ideally, it would include such things as:
- The relationship, gender and ethnic background of family members
- Medical conditions and the age at time of diagnosis
- The age and cause of death of deceased family members
It would also be good to note if there were any sudden deaths of an otherwise healthy person and the cause. It could also be helpful to have a list of test results and treatments, if available.