Prevention and your family medical history

This spring, create a “family tree of health” by collecting your family medical history. The information you gather might help you to take steps to manage health conditions that run in your family.

Record the health information of at least 3 generations in your family, including children, siblings, parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles and their children. Collecting your family medical history is a way to find clues about any medical conditions that might run in your family. Share the information with your doctor to help her/him see patterns that could affect you. If your family members have medical issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers, and diabetes, you might be at increased risk for these conditions. Then your doctor can recommend lifestyle changes and/or treatments to reduce the chances a medical condition will become a problem.

So, get asking! And write down the answers. Ask your family members about their chronic conditions. Ask if they’ve had any serious illnesses such as cancer or stroke and when they developed. Also ask about problems with pregnancy or childbirth. If you’re missing some important information, consider searching for obituaries or death certificates of relatives who are no longer with you.

My Family Health Portrait is an online tool where you can enter your family’s health history, print it to share with family members and healthcare providers, and save the information so you can update it over time. Collecting your family medical history will not only benefit your own health, but also the health of generations of your family to come!