Your family's health: It's relative!

Samantha Bohrt, MPH, MCHES®, Health Coach – Community Wellness

By Samantha Bohrt, MPH, MCHES®
Health Coach –
Methodist Health System

Your family health history may not be the go-to topic during family gatherings or calls with loved ones, but being aware of the health conditions that have affected those related to you can make it easier for you and your physician to monitor your own health. If one or more of your close family members has a chronic condition, you may want to discuss this with your healthcare provider to assess your risk and potentially come up with a plan for prevention or early detection.

Unfortunately, you cannot change your genes. But in many cases, you can make lifestyle changes that can decrease your chances of developing certain conditions. Some of these changes could be eating a more balanced diet, incorporating more movement into your weekly routine, developing a stress management strategy, or quitting tobacco.

Your family health history primer

  • Let’s talk. Start by talking to your family. Even though these conversations are not always easy, being well informed about their health history will help both you and your provider take care of yours. Discuss not only the conditions they were diagnosed with but also the age at which they were diagnosed.
  • Ask questions. Some of your family members’ health information may not be at the top of their minds. Plan your questions in advance, and make sure that you cover chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and blood pressure.
  • Write it down and keep it updated. It may be hard to remember what your family has told you, especially the more relatives you talk to. So write down as much information as you can. Then you can refer back to it during your next visit with your doctor.
  • Share the knowledge. Make sure to provide this information to your healthcare provider, and pass it down to other family members. Their health could benefit from it, too.

What if you can’t reach your family?

If you don’t have access to your biological family’s health history, consider asking your healthcare provider about your options. In certain cases, he or she may recommend genetic testing. This will help identify conditions you may be genetically predisposed to. However, bear in mind that these tests cannot determine whether you will develop a condition; they can only create greater awareness of what you should keep an eye on. They’ll also help your healthcare provider know which routine screenings you may need.

If you are interested in recording your family health history, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed a free tool to help you keep track of it. It’s called My Family Health Portrait, and you can find it on the CDC’s website:

If you’re looking for an organization that is committed to helping its employees stay as healthy as they can, take a look at Methodist Health System. Visit us at

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