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3 ways you can develop a family medical history record


iStockphoto | ThinkStock

iStockphoto | ThinkStock

Over on The Nerdy Nurse, Brittany recently blogged about the importance of knowing your family’s health history and how that history can affect your own health and well-being. While it may seem like an obvious train of thought (especially for nurses who spend their lives treating patients and digging into their pasts for answers!), it’s still an important reminder to look out for yourself as well.

Read on for her tips on staying informed…

A number of celebrities have graced recent headlines by making some drastic decisions about their health, and in turn, raising awareness for the importance of knowing one’s family medical history. For instance, according to the CDC, a history of breast, cervical or ovarian cancer indicates a strong risk of cancer in some women, and thus proactive and preventative measures, like having a mastectomy or hysterectomy, may be warranted.

Here are steps you can take to develop a family medical history record that will help inform your lifestyle choices and serve generations to come.

Step 1: Seek answers to lingering questions

You inherit half of your genetic profile from each parent. So, the first step in establishing your family medical history is to seek answers to any doubts or questions you may have about your parents’ identity. In today’s society, and with the rising rate of children born out of wedlock, this situation is actually more common than you might think. In fact, a recent survey conducted on behalf of Identigene, a DNA paternity test laboratory, concluded that one out of 10 Americans has personally been in a situation where a paternity test was needed. In addition, nearly one out of five respondents said that they or a close friend or family member has questioned paternity. However, discovering your paternity can be fairly simple. A kit, such the Identigene DNA Paternity Test, is available at nationwide drug stores and supercenters, and offers 100 percent accurate and confidential results within a matter of days.

Step 2: Talk to your family

The best way to gather information about your medical history is to talk with relatives about their health. An upcoming holiday gathering or family reunion is a great opportunity to start the conversation. Explain why you want to learn more about your family history and ask direct, specific questions to uncover any reoccurring medical issues and when they occurred. Consult existing documents, such as family trees, birth certificates and obituaries, to help obtain this information. From these materials, you can begin identifying potential patterns that should be discussed with a doctor.

Step 3: Be proactive about getting healthy

After identifying potential patterns, make a point to discuss them with your primary care doctor at your next annual exam. A medical professional might suggest necessary screening and proactive steps you can take to help stay healthy and avoid certain predisposed conditions in the future. It’s also a good idea to continue to update your family medical history record to help future generations navigate their health.

To read the rest of the story, head on over to The Nerdy Nurse. Then, in the comments below, tell us your own advice for staying on top of your family history and your own health!

The Nerdy Nurse
Brittney Wilson, RN, BSN, also known as The Nerdy Nurse, is a Clinical Informatics Specialist practicing in Georgia. In her day job she gets to do what she loves every day: Combine technology and healthcare to improve patient outcomes. She can best be described as a patient, nurse and technology advocate, and has a passion for using technology to innovate, improve and simplify lives, especially in healthcare. Brittney blogs about nursing issues, technology, healthcare, parenting and various lifestyle topics at

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