Sunday was Mother’s Day and many were celebrating with cards, calls, flowers and brunch to honor the women in their lives. Yet, how many know the full health history of their mom, grandmother and aunts? This information could prove to be critical when it comes to your own health. Here are five questions to ask the female family members in your life.
1. How was menopause?
This question is important as women tend to follow the other women in their family when it comes to perimenopause and menopausal changes. Do the hot flashes and night sweats start in the 40s or 50s? How long did it take? Was it rough? Was it easy? How did she treat it? Any complications?
2. Who has had cancer in the family? And at what age?
This applies to both the men and women, however mom tends to know this information. If grandma and the aunts had breast cancer at a younger age, this is more concerning than finding out grandma had it later in life.
Has anyone had thyroid cancer? Prostate cancer? Ovarian, cervical or uterine cancer? Skin cancer? Know your family’s cancer history.
3. What are the family trends?
If all the women eventually develop thyroid disease and go on thyroid medication, this helps both you and your health care provider to be extra-diligent and proactive. Does heart disease run in the family?
What about obesity? Fertility problems? Endometriosis? Osteoporosis? Do the women tend to lose their hair as they age? Everyone have their gallbladder? What about digestive or food allergy problems? All of this information is critical for future planning and may shed light into current symptoms.
4. Any outliers in the family?
The second cousin with celiac disease may not strike you as important, however as your gas and bloating worsen, there could be a direct link. The weird uncle whose mood alternates from really happy and hyper to down and depressed may be suffering from undiagnosed bipolar disorder. This can be genetically linked as can depression in the family.
If grandma had joint or muscle pain all the time, she may have had undiagnosed fibromyalgia or a certain type of arthritis. How are your pains?
5. What about your siblings?
Not all brothers and sisters are close and they may not inform each other about different health issues, concerns, scares and symptoms, but mom usually knows. Ask her if your symptoms sound like anyone else in the family, or periodically check in on the health of the rest of the family.
You may find out that your older sister has been having problems getting pregnant too or that your brother experiences the same types of migraines that you do and the same medications are not working.
While some people may prefer to keep some of their health history private, the more you know the more you (and your family) can be proactive and prevent problems when possible. Let your health care provider know of any changes as well to routinely keep your chart up to date, and help them provide the best care possible for you.
1. Segurado, R., Deterawadleigh, S., Levinson, D., Lewis, C., Gill, M., Nurnbergerjr, J., Craddock, N. Depaulo, J. (2003). "Genome Scan Meta-Analysis of Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder, Part III: Bipolar Disorder". Am J Human Genetics 73 (1): 49–62.
2. Steiner, A., Baird, D., Kesner, J. (2008). Mother’s Menopausal Age is Associated with her Daughter’s Early Follicular Phase Urinary, Follicle Stimulating Hormone Level. Menopause. 15(5): 940–944.
Reviewed May 13, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith