Advertisement

What health questions I should ask my relatives?

Be sure to collect the following information:
  • Name and relationship to you
  • Place and date of birth
  • Ethnicity, race, origins of family
  • For deceased relatives, age and cause of death
  • Whether there is a history of heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, cancer and, if so, when disease started
  • Any treatments received for various diseases, cancers
  • Full list of medications and supplements (name and dosage)
  • Any history of mental illnesses
  • Lifestyle factors: occupation, exercise, diet, smoking and alcohol consumption
It is important to collect this information about yourself, your parents, grandparents, siblings, and children. Your extended family’s health history will be valuable to your health, too.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Shaking down family for health details needn't always be a horribly awkward task. Remember that half of your family will always talk about the other half, so go the gossip route if it's easier.

You might consider a phone opener like this: "Hello, [relative]. I know you haven't heard from me since [year] but I'm putting my family healthy history together to see if I'm at risk for anything genetic, and I thought you could tell me a few things I just can't find anywhere else. [Another relative he or she hates] said you probably wouldn't help me or wouldn't be able to remember, but I thought I'd try anyway."

Here are the key questions you should ask—or, in some cases, the info that would be most useful for you and your doctor to know (even if your relative isn't telling).
  • When were you born? (Or "Who was the first president you remember?" if they won't say. If it's FDR, ask if they voted for him.)
  • Have you been diagnosed with any diseases? When?
  • What kind of treatment did you get?
  • Any cancers? Diabetes? Heart problems? High blood pressure? Do you take any drugs (not those kind) or supplements? If so, why?
  • Any surgeries? When, and for what?
  • Ever have a bout of depression, anxiety, or other emotional health problems? (Ask the relative this family member hates for an immediate answer.)
  • Any miscarriages, stillbirths or infant deaths?
  • Any heart attacks or strokes? (Pretend you suddenly remember and ask if the flowers made it.)
  • How's your hearing? (Whispered.)
  • Do you or did you smoke?
  • What jobs did you have?
  • Still lead in the pencil?
  • How much alcohol do you drink every day? Are you in A.A. yet?
  • Has the senility stabilized, or is it still progressing?
  • So that thing growing on [another relative]...is that skin cancer or what?
YOU: The Smart Patient: An Insider's Handbook for Getting the Best Treatment

More About this Book

YOU: The Smart Patient: An Insider's Handbook for Getting the Best Treatment

Everyone needs to become a smart patient. In fact, in the worst cases, your life may even depend on it. Number one bestselling authors and doctors Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz have written this...

Continue Learning about Genetic Disorders and Birth Defects

Stemming the Tide of Stem Cell Scams
Stemming the Tide of Stem Cell Scams
In April 2019, the Federal Trade Commission returned almost $515,000 to consumers who bought deceptively marketed “Amniotic Stem Cell Therapy” between...
Read More
What happens to stem cells after a stem cell transplant?
Jumo HealthJumo Health
After a stem cell transplant, the stem cells go into the bloodstream, and then travel to the bone ma...
More Answers
What causes cystic fibrosis (CF)?
Jumo HealthJumo Health
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic condition, caused by a mistake in the gene that makes the protein ...
More Answers
When Should I Get Genetic Counseling for Genetic Disorders?
When Should I Get Genetic Counseling for Genetic Disorders?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.