Health History: Why it’s Important to Know and Share Health History with Future Generations
As seniors age, there is a lot to consider regarding what they might pass down to their loved ones, family members, and future generations. Yes, this can include priceless family heirlooms and trust funds, but it should also include health history.
Fellowship Square shares why it’s so important for seniors to have record of, and share, their personal health history.
Whether individually or compiled as a family health history, it’s important for future generations to have accurate and detailed information about their ancestor's health history. A complete record, according to an article on the U.S. National Library of Medicine website, “includes information from three generations of relatives including children, brothers and sisters, parents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents, and cousins.”
This complete record is important because families often have similar health backgrounds due to genetics, of course, but they also have similar environments and lifestyles that can lead them to experience similar health issues. According to the site, these factors can serve as “clues” to conditions that may run in the family and help healthcare professionals recognize patterns of disorders among relatives, and thus “determine whether an individual, family members or future generations may be at an increased risk of developing a particular condition.” Ultimately, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), doctors can then use these patterns and history to “develop a more complete picture of your health and your risk factors for disease.”
An article on the CDC website states that a complete record or family history can also be instrumental in helping doctors determine which screening tests and other health interventions may be needed, and when. The article cites the example of a senior who has had breast cancer in their lifetime. This knowledge can be helpful for a doctor who then may want to have future generations from that family begin routine mammography screening earlier than usual or for someone whose grandparent or parent had cancer, knowing this might help the doctor refer a patient to receive cancer genetic counseling.
Seniors can start by compiling their own health history through the help of their doctors. If they are so inclined, they can also start the process of encouraging other family members to compile their own for a more complete record of all the family’s history. This record can include diagnoses of medical conditions as well as things that doctors may have noted the family’s genetic makeup is at risk of as they age. It’s important to either share this information with living relatives as diagnoses are received or to make the information accessible to them upon the senior’s passing if they prefer to keep certain information private.
For those that are tech-savvy, there are even online resources, such as the Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait tool that allows families to compile health history information that is easily accessible and easily sharable with their doctors.
Fellowship Square encourages seniors and families to be open about their health issues for the benefit of each family member. In many cases, early diagnosis of some illnesses can make treatment that much less invasive and much more effective.