The Holiday's- A great time to learn your family health history

Dr. Candice Fraser
November 1, 2022
(5 mins read)
Health & Wellness

It’s that time of year again where we are making plans to spend time with our families, and it’s a great time to start asking questions about family medical history. This is an opportunity to turn the tables on our well meaning, but nosy relatives who often ask uncomfortable personal questions at the dinner table just as we took a big bite of the holiday treats we have been waiting all year for. The truth is that asking about family history is very important as the answers we get can ultimately manage our own health. Many of us come from cultures where our elders have not been particularly forthcoming with their health history, and we must therefore ask the important questions boldly.

Knowing the medical history of closely related family members is important as it may reveal medical conditions that we may be at risk of developing if we share a similar genetic makeup and environment as our family.  Some diseases that may run in families include some cancers such as breast, ovarian and colon cancers.  In addition to genes related to cancers, families may pass along gene mutations related to other diseases such as sickle cell, cystic fibrosis, fragile X (a common cause of developmental delay) and tay sachs disease. Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol stroke and autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis may also run in families.

It may take some time, but you should collect medical history from your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. It may be difficult to know how to begin asking about family medical history, so you can consider the following script:

“Recently I went to the doctor and they asked me about my family’s medical history and I realized that I don’t know much, have you ever been diagnosed or treated for any illnesses?” 

You can also ask more specific questions such as “ How about diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol?”

It is also important to ask about family members that passed away and their medical history. If cancers were diagnosed in a family member it is also important to ask about the age it was found and if any genetic testing was done. A helpful way to collect this information can be found here

Not all medical diseases run in families, but it is important to know the information so that your doctor can help you assess your risk and order any screening tests that may be needed. If you have any questions about your family’s medical history do not hesitate to speak to one of our Kiira clinicians.