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Have you shared your family’s medical history with us?

Knowing your family’s health history is essential. It helps your insurer assess your risk and it benefits you – you can be aware of and manage hereditary conditions.

13 June 2017
4 minute read

big family posing for photo

You might wonder why we ask those questions about your family history when you take out a policy. This information helps 1Life accurately assess your risk of getting a medical condition that might be common in your family, and adjust your premiums accordingly. It doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t insure you, or that you won’t be covered for that condition.

It’s important that you disclose everything you know about your family history fully. If you don’t disclose fully, and this fact emerges later, your claim pay-out might be reduced or even rejected.

Knowing your family history benefits your health as well. If you know a particular illness runs in the family, you can take preventative measures, get tested or learn how to manage this condition. Take a few moments to start your family health history tree.

What’s my family history?Family history is the health history of your immediate family who are your blood relatives - parents, brothers and sisters, and children. If a particular illness affects one, or more than one, member of your family, you may have the same gene that carries this illness.

What do genes do?

We share more than our good looks with our family – we share the genes that influence our health.

We share more than our good looks with our family – we share the genes that influence our health. We get our genes from our parents and we’ve each got between 20 000 and 50 000 genes.

They determine our physical characteristics - the colour of our eyes for example – and carry instructions on how we grow and develop. Most often, genes follow these instructions and we are healthy. Unfortunately, we can inherit a faulty gene or they can become faulty as we age and as a result of this faulty gene we become ill.

What kinds of illnesses are carried in our genes?Certain kinds of cancer, diabetes and heart disease, and rare conditions such as Huntington’s disease can be passed down from generation to generation.

Certain types of cancer in an immediate relative means your risk of getting cancer could be as high as 50% (the risk may be much lower in other types). Some of the more common types of cancers that have been linked to inherited faulty genes are:

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Bowel cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Thyroid cancer

Heart disease and stroke
A family history of heart disease or stroke increases the risk of these diseases. According to the Heart Foundation, “if your siblings, parents or grandparents have had early heart attacks (by age 55 for male relatives and by age 65 for female relatives), you may be at increased risk.”

What do I need to do?Compile your family’s health history. Asking your family personal questions about their health can be uncomfortable. We don’t you to be banned from family gatherings! Start by asking your parents their details and explain how your family health history can benefit your family in two ways:

  • You can take preventative measures if you discover there is a history of an illness.
  • You can accurately disclose this history to insurers to avoid a claim being rejected.

Compile your family history
Draw a family history diagram with your parents at the top, their children underneath (including yourself) and your children. Make a note of the following on the diagram under each person:

  • Date of birth
  • Major illnesses such as cancer, stroke or heart attack and the severity of the illness, for example the stage of cancer at diagnosis
  • Age at which these illnesses occurred and how they were treated
  • Regular medication and the reason it is being taken – for example high blood pressure, diabetes or cholesterol. If you don’t know the reason list the name of the medication and get the family member to ask the doctor for the reason on their next visit
  • Age at which the medication was first taken
  • Age of death
  • Cause of death

This is the start of your family history – if you want to go further you can add more details about diseases and treatment, and add your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.

If you are adopted, or didn’t know your parents just give us these details and start your family history with yourself and your children.

Share this information with your insurer
Your insurer is going to ask about your family health history. Answer these questions honestly and carefully, using the family history you have compiled.

Genes aren’t the whole pictureIf you see an illness popping up don’t be too alarmed. In most cases getting ill is due to a number of factors like our lifestyle (exercising regularly and eating healthy food), our environment (clean air and clean water) and our genes. Sometimes getting ill is just a matter of chance.

When we underwrite your application, we look at all these factors. Having a family history of an illness doesn’t automatically mean you will get this illness or that we won’t insure you. But it is essential for us to know if a serious illness runs in your family. And when you know, you can take action to manage your risk and improve your chances of not getting ill.

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