Did your grandfather have a heart attack? Did your aunt have a stroke? Did any of your family members have diabetes? How old were they when this happened?
The answers to these questions can help you understand your own disease risk.
And if you don’t know the answers, the holidays are a perfect time to find out. If you’re reuniting with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other relatives during the holiday season, take some time to learn more about your family health history.
Why your health history matters
Your family history gives you and your doctor crucial information that will guide your healthcare plan.
While you can’t counteract your genetics, if you have a family history of heart disease, for example, you can change your behavior to reduce your risk. By committing to healthier habits for yourself – such as improving your diet, exercising more and quitting smoking – you also become a role model for family members who share your genetic traits.
A family history can be helpful for more than just heart disease, since genetics can play a role in many other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, some cancers and osteoporosis.
Knowledge is power
Even if your family has a clean bill of health, there are other factors, such as race or ethnicity, that can increase your risk for heart disease. For example, African-Americans have higher risks for diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. One in three Hispanics will suffer from high blood pressure, and nearly half will have high cholesterol levels.
Knowing your family’s health history is one important step to help you avoid these health concerns. Talk to your relatives this holiday season and then then share this information with your healthcare provider, who can tailor a plan to help you counteract the potential negative effects of your genetics.