Don't Know Family Health History? Better Start Collecting Info Now

Read Time: 4:12
Published: Apr 7th, 2021
Start Collecting Family Health History Info Now

People kept their health information secret in previous generations. Health history was never shared with anyone, including with their children or extended family members. Perhaps they were embarrassed or thought it showed weakness; either way, families knew little about their family's health history.

But were you aware that your family history might be one of the strongest influences on your risk of developing health issues, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer? There are even familial links with forms of Alzheimer's and dementia. 

Understanding your family history can help you reduce your risk of developing health problems despite your inability to change your genetic makeup. This information can also help you plan for future changes you will experience in your health, body, and mind. 

Knowledge is Power

Today we know that a good knowledge of your family's health history can help you and your doctor take better care of your overall health. Advances in medical science can help you avoid significant health issues your parents or other extended family members may have faced. Health conditions your family faced can help diagnose health issues you might be suffering from now. A quicker diagnosis leads to better treatment and better outcomes. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says many people have a family health history that includes at least one chronic health problem, like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. 

Suppose you have a close family member with a chronic disease. In that case, you may be more likely to develop that condition yourself, especially if more than one close relative has (or had) the illness or a family member suffered from the ailment at a younger age than usual.

Knowledge is power for both you and your doctor. 

Family History is More Than Just Heredity

A family sitting on the couch together.

Genetics does play a role in your health. However, it is not just genetics. Family members tend to share common habits, live in the same area of the country, and share other traits, leading to similar illnesses. 

You cannot change your genes, but you can change harmful habits, such as smoking, not exercising or being active, and poor eating habits. According to the CDC, if you have a family health history of a disease, you may have the most to gain from lifestyle changes and screening tests.

With some changes, you could reduce your risk for diseases that run in your family. Screening tests, such as blood sugar testingmammograms, and colorectal cancer screening, help find early signs of disease. Getting diagnosed with a health condition early can often mean better health in the long run.

Discover Your Family Health History

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there are several ways to learn about your family history:

  • Ask questions
  • Talk at family gatherings
  • Look at death certificates and family medical records, if possible

Be sure to collect information about your grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, siblings, and children. Get all the details, including:

  • Major medical conditions and causes of death
  • Age of disease onset and age at death
  • Ethnic background

Be sure to write down the data and share it with your physician. Your doctor will:

  • Evaluate your disease risk based on your family history and other risk factors
  • Advise lifestyle changes to help prevent disease
  • Prescribe screening tests to identify illnesses early

Family Health Portrait

My Family Health Portrait is a tool from the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office that can help – click here

If your doctor notices a disease pattern in your family, it may be a sign of an inherited form of a disease that is passed from generation to generation. 

Genetic testing may also help determine if you or your family members are at risk. Even with inherited forms of a disease, steps can be taken to reduce your risk.

Family History and Long-Term Health Care

Even planning for the future costs and burdens of aging has family history as part of the equation. Greater life expectancy can run in families, and the longer you live, the greater to need for long-term health care. Sure, there are many other longevity factors, but if your family already lives well into their 80s, you should understand the greater risk.

When it comes to Long-Term Care Insurance, your family's medical history has become a more significant part of the equation. If you have a family history of dementia, you can probably qualify to obtain coverage, but some companies are looking very closely that your family’s history, especially with first-degree blood relatives. 

Today, Long-Term Care Insurance specialists and financial advisors will ask more questions about family medical history and longevity. Between your doctor, financial advisor, and Long-Term Care Insurance specialist, knowledge of your family's medical history can help them help you.

Your children will want to know this information when they get older. An open conversation is essential, and it starts with asking questions and answering them. Never be ashamed or afraid to answer and share as it benefits everyone.

About the Author

Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.

Editor's Note

A complete retirement plan should include a strategy for longevity and the impact that long-term health care will have on you, your family, income, savings, lifestyle, and legacy. This includes the consequences due to dementia. Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance gives you access to your choice of quality care either at home or in a facility.

Remember, Long-Term Care Insurance will pay for long-term custodial care, the most common type of care we will need. Health insurance, including Medicareand MedicareSupplements, will only pay for a small portion of skilled care. Medicaid will only pay if you have little or no savings and income.

You Must Health Qualify to Obtain Coverage

The underwriting criteria are different with each company. You will have to answer some health questions even to obtain accurate quotes. You ideally want to get coverage when you enjoy good health. If you are already receiving care in your home or if you live in a care facility, you would be ineligible for coverage. 

Seek Help of a Qualified LTC Specialist

A Long-Term Care specialist can help you determine your eligibility based on your health history and other factors. Most financial planners and general insurance agents are not knowledgeable about underwriting, features, benefits, federal/state partnership programs, policy design, and claims.

Find a qualified specialist by clicking here.

LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator

Your research should include finding the current and future cost of long-term care services in the area you live – or plan on living in the future. Use the LTC NEWS cost of care calculator by clicking here.

Other research tools are available, including the Ultimate Long-Term Care Insurance Guide. Review the guide by clicking here.

Advertising and Marketing Opportunities on LTC NEWS

Reach an educated audience. Readers of LTC NEWS are researching retirement issues, including aging, health, caregiving, and long-term care. Other readers seek information for a parent or other loved one who is experiencing declining health or aging issues and require extended care.   

Many marketing opportunities are available, including sponsored content articles. Sponsored content offers you a long-form way to sell yourself, your company, and your ideas.

Learn more about how LTC NEWS can help you market your business - click here.

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Write a story for publication on LTC NEWS and let America hear what you have to say. Be sure your article fits the LTC NEWS target audience of adults 40-70.

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LTC News Contributor Linda Maxwell
Linda Maxwell

Contributor Since
December 11th, 2017

Former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in.

About the Author

Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.

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