Your family health history is important to your health. Families can share many things that can increase your risk of getting a health condition, including:
lifestyle habits (for example, poor diet, lack of exercise or smoking).
Many health conditions develop due to a combination of factors including lifestyle choices and environmental factors, such as sun exposure. This means that in most cases family history alone is not enough to cause a condition to develop.
Knowing that some conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers tend to ‘run in the family’ can be a sign you are at increased risk.
If you know of these conditions you should let your doctor know so that they can help you identify things you can do to reduce your chance of also developing the condition.
They may refer you to Genetic Services of WA where you can have tests to confirm your genetic risk and receive genetic counselling.
You can’t change your genes, but if you are aware of your family’s health history, you can reduce your risk of getting some conditions by:
making healthy lifestyle changes
having regular check-ups and getting healthcare advice from your doctor.
Health conditions that run in families
Common health conditions that you may find within your family’s health history include:
birth defects (for example, spina bifida or a cleft lip)
cancer (including breast, ovarian, prostate, bowel/colon or melanoma skin cancer)
genetic conditions, for example, cystic fibrosis or haemophilia
heart disease or sudden heart attack
high blood pressure (hypertension) or high cholesterol
more than 3 pregnancy losses to a couple or woman
Know your family’s health history
It is recommended that you are aware of your family health history. A family health history can help identify if you are at higher risk for certain conditions because of your shared genes and behaviours.
If you are at higher risk, your doctor can suggest lifestyle changes that may slow or stop the development of many conditions. The best way to build your family health history is to talk to relatives about their health information.
While there may be a high incidence of a certain condition in your family it does not mean that you will definitely develop that condition.
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