All families share the same genes, environment, lifestyles and habits, which is why certain diseases can be passed on from generation to generation.
By knowing your family’s medical history, you can better determine what screening exams you should take, what preventative measures you should follow, or you can choose to incorporate certain practices that help contribute to reducing the risk of suffering a specific disease you may be predisposed to. Learning about your past can therefore allow you to protect the wellbeing of those that surround you.
The following are some conditions that can be genetically transmitted:
- High blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Heart disease and sudden cardiac arrest
- Certain types of cancer such as colon, lung, prostate, ovarian and breast or chest cancer.
- Stroke and cerebral thrombosis
- Birth defects
- Alzheimer’s or dementia
You can start by talking with the relatives that are closest to you such as your parents, siblings and children; then continue with your grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and nieces and nephews. Sometimes, older family members have more information about their family medical history and are the best people to start this conversation with. This information includes health problems that they have had, the age in which the problem started or a diagnosis was made, causes of death of loved ones, habits and lifestyles, family heritage or nationality and environment or places where they have worked and lived.
The webpage from the Utah Department of Health in the U.S. can help you develop your own family health diagram.
Related article: Common hereditary diseases