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Health and wellness can be scary, so we definitely want to know what’s going on with our bodies at all times. One thing you should think about doing right away is inquiring about your family health history, because it plays an important role in your personal health. Even if it’s a topic that makes you nervous, it’s never too early to start being proactive when it comes to asking about the health of your family.

So what should you be asking about your family history, anyway? HelloGiggles spoke with Dr. Jennifer Wider, M.D., an expert in women’s health, and she can point you in the right direction.

First of all, it never hurts to ask whatever you’re wondering.

Dr. Wider tells HG that, even if you’re practicing a healthy diet and exercising regularly, it doesn’t hurt to ask. In fact, asking could literally save your life. Not all diseases can be fought off with healthy diet and exercise, so it’s important to know your family history so you’re ready in case of an emergency.

So with that in mind, what exactly should you be asking? Here are some tips.

Find out what diseases run in your family on either side.

Dr. Wider says the single most important question to ask your family about your history is what diseases run in your family. It might sound like a no-brainer, but that is the first step to knowing what to look out for. For example, if you know your family has a history of diabetes, you’re better prepared to ask questions more pertinent to your health next time you’re at the doctor’s office.

Dr. Wider lists heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, depression, and anxiety disorders as some of the most common diseases passed down through families. The truth is that even if you’re healthy now, it’s important to know this information for later in life.

Ask if there’s a history of risk factors for certain diseases.

Another important thing to know, according to Dr. Wider, is the risk factors for certain disease that run in your family. She lists high cholesterol and high blood pressure as examples. Once you know the risks your family has, you’re better able to identify them in your own life. That way, you have the knowledge to protect yourself in case you ever start to feel similar symptoms or feel that you might be at risk.

Then ask what age family members were diagnosed with these diseases.

An incredibly important question Dr. Wider brings up is asking the age at which your family members were diagnosed. This is relevant because that means that your family has a history of the diseases hitting at a similar age. For example, if your family has a history of being diagnosed at a young age, that means you might want to start talking to your doctor more seriously about your concerns, since your health might be at risk sooner rather than later. However, if they have a history of being diagnosed later in life, you should still be vigilant and gather all the information you need.

Find out if any family member died of the disease.

While this is a major bummer, Dr. Wider says you should know if and when your family members died from these diseases, just as much as you should be aware of when they were diagnosed with these hereditary diseases. While it is scary to think about this stuff, asking about it now might save your life down the road.

Don’t forget to ask about mental history and psychological issues.

Lastly Dr. Wider tells you to remember to ask about mental health history and psychological issues. There is a tendency in our culture to take physical disease more seriously than mental disease, but that is a mistake. Mental illnesses are just as likely to get passed down through the family. It’s important to know all of your family history so you can keep yourself as protected as possible.

Even if you think that you live a completely healthy lifestyle, ask these questions anyway.

Dr. Wider says a lot of people make the mistake of thinking they can control hereditary risk factors with behavioral modifications, but that’s not always the case. She cites familial hypercholesterolemia as an example, which causes high cholesterol and can result in cardiac issues.

“Some people mistakenly feel that if they eat well, exercise and are in good shape, that will ward off the disease,” Dr. Wider tells HG. “Unfortunately, if a person has familial hypercholesterolemia, they will likely need to consult a doctor for early intervention (i.e. cholesterol lowering medications).”

So the biggest takeaway is to start asking these questions right away! Knowledge is power, and knowing your family health history is the best way to keep your own health in check. Start taking notes.