It can be very helpful to know your family health history, as it provides pointers towards genetic disorders you may develop, or any illnesses you may suffer from in the future.
The ideal history should go back three generations and should include parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, as well as nieces and nephews.
It is especially important to know if your family are carriers of genetic disorders such as Sickle Cell Anemia or Cystic Fibrosis, which can affect any unborn children you have.
Other diseases which can be spotted include, diabetes, asthma and heart disease, even high cholesterol can run in families. Breast cancer too is genetic, if you know someone in your family has suffered with breast cancer, then you should inform your doctor, who can arrange for a breast scan.
Talk to all your family members about their health, as them if they know of any genetic diseases which might run in the family. Find out about relatives who have died. Ask what they died of and if you can’t find out, you can always apply to the General Register Office for a death certificate, which will give cause of death. You will need to know the full name of the relative, the date of death and where they died. Don’t forget to include every one, including half-brothers and sisters.
Make a record of everything you find out, cross check relatives who have suffered from chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease, high blood pressure or cholesterol. Find out when they were diagnosed with the conditions. Make a note of the cause of death of any deceased relatives. You might slowly see a pattern emerging of various conditions.
Inform other Family Members
Let the other members of your family know what you have discovered, it might be of help to them too. Especially if they have not thought about the health history of your family. Inform your doctor if you see a worrying pattern and have a health check. If you have a condition such as genetically passed high cholesterol, your doctor can start you on medication to control it.
Get your own Health Records
From this year everyone in England will be able to view their health records online. It is a good idea to get a copy of your own records and add them to the notes you have made about your family health. In order to access the records you have to register and create a password.
Look After Your Heart
The British Heart Foundation has a useful website, with lots of advice and tips about keeping your heart healthy and living with a heart condition. You can browse the site and read about how your heart works and risk factors.
Watch Your Blood Pressure
Have your blood pressure checked at the doctors, it is a good sign of your heart health. If it is high the doctor will recommend treatment to help lower it and cut the risk of a heart attack or a stroke. Have a look at the Blood Pressure UK page for advice and support.
Have regular check-ups
If you do think you could be affected by illnesses which have come to light through researching your family history, see your doctor regularly for check-ups and show him your findings if necessary.
Keep Your Records in a Safe Place
Be careful not to lose your notes and keep them somewhere easy to find. Let another member of the family know where they are too, in case they are needed in case you are taken to hospital yourself.