Assessing Your Health History
Everyone tells you that you inherited your father's temper and your mother's beautiful smile, but what else did your parents and grandparents hand down to you? Knowing your family's medical history is one of the best tools you have for predicting your future health. Many of the health risks that deserve your attention as you approach the age of menopause have risk factors associated with your personal health history and the health history of your immediate family. Your doctor or health care provider will want and need to know this information in order to monitor your health, prescribe appropriate treatment, and recommend appropriate preventative measures. Though this information is always important to your health care provider, it becomes essential as you enter perimenopause. If you have children, this information is important to them as well.
Start Asking Questions
Most health care providers ask you to fill out a health history during your first appointment. If you aren't well versed in the medical history of your parents, grandparents, and siblings, talk to your family members ahead of time to gather this information. You'll want to gather medical information about as many of your family members as possible, but remember that your immediate family matters most. You can draw up your own form, fill it in for each family member, and take the forms with you to your medical appointment. For each family member, you should list the name, sex, relationship to you, year of birth, and year and cause of death. Then, note whether that person was ever diagnosed with any of the following health problems:
If members of your immediate family died at an early age from medical conditions (not accidental deaths), you should also ask other family members about those individuals' lifestyles and living conditions. Did they smoke or drink excessively? Did their jobs or living environment expose them to potentially toxic substances? Did they seem to be under a great deal of stress, or were there any other factors that might have contributed to an early death? The more you — and your doctor — know about the health problems that your relatives have experienced, the better able you'll be to develop a lifestyle and health maintenance plan to help protect you from inherited risks.
Don't Forget Your Own History
Your doctor or health care professional will want to know the same information about you that you've gathered about your family members. Your medical history form will also ask about what illnesses, diseases, surgeries, hospitalizations, and other health issues you've experienced. Gather the information before your doctor's appointment, so you're fully prepared to discuss your history. Try to remember (or better yet, write down) dates of surgeries and hospitalizations. If you've taken birth control pills prescribed by another doctor, write down the brand name and the dates during which you took them. If you are tracking your menopausal symptoms on a menstrual calendar, bring that along as well.