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How to Research Your Family Health

Genetics is an important part of any family tree, as well as any single person's personal health. Once you understand how the process of inheriting health traits works, it is time to start researching your pedigree. This can be a difficult process, but by taking a close look at your parents' health histories, and then continuing to work your way back through the generations, you can help you and your children maintain good health conditions or be prepared for problems that may develop in the future. Not everything is treatable or preventable, but knowing your family health history will help you and your doctor make the most educated decisions possible.

When you begin to compile a family health history, your first step is to record information for yourself and your closest living relatives. Even if your grandparents or parents are not living anymore, by speaking to uncles, aunts, and cousins, you can determine some of the diseases that may be common in your family. Record this information carefully and then ask your doctor for help interpreting it. For example, if your sister has a disease that is only possible by receiving two faulty genes, both of your parents and at least two of your grandparents must have been carriers. This means there's a chance that you are a carrier as well, and you should find your husband's status to determine if your future children will be at risk.

There are many resources for finding family history. After speaking with relatives who are still living about personal health, ask if they have any information about relatives who have since passed away. You can also check death records for causes of death, which is important if they died due to a specific genetic disease, rather than naturally of old age or by accident. Military records are also an excellent source for this, as are immigration records. Remember, to establish a good family heath history, you don't need to go back in time 20 generations-four or five should be enough to trace the majority of genetically transmitted diseases that are common in your family.

Once you gather this information, organize it for your doctor and then ask his advice if you see any trends or patterns. Also, consider sharing your findings with everyone in your family. Although you may want to keep you health records private, if your family is at risk, the ethical thing to do is share this information.

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