Keeping track of your family health history Photo Provided

It is important to know your family's health history. This holiday season is the perfect opportunity to discuss health history with your family members.

Keeping track of your family health history

By Chris Jennings
December 1, 2021

Knowing your family health history can help prevent disease or potentially find them early. If there is a family history of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or stroke, you should speak to your doctor about early screening. Finding these diseases early on can often mean better health in the long run.

A family history of a particular disease doesn’t mean you will get it. However, taking time to talk to family members about their health history and getting familiar with the health history risk of your family can help current and future generations.

Write down the names of your close relatives from both sides of the family: parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. Talk to these family members about their health history and at what age the conditions were first diagnosed. You might think you know about all of the conditions in your parents or siblings, but you might find out more information if you ask.

Some common questions to ask family members are:

  • Do you have any chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes?
  • Do you have health conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
  • Have you had any other serious diseases, such as cancer or stroke? What type of cancer?
  • How old were you when each of these diseases or health conditions was diagnosed? (If your relative doesn’t remember the exact age, knowing the approximate age is still useful.)
  • What is your family’s ancestry?
  • What were the causes, and ages, of death for relatives who have died?

You can use the Centers for Disease Control’s online tool, My Family Health Portrait, to keep track of your family health history. The website will also allow you to share this information easily with other family members and doctors.

By sharing this information with your primary care physician, they can decide if you or future generations are at an increased risk. If so, they may choose to start mammographies and colorectal screenings at an earlier age.

It’s common knowledge that you can improve your health by maintaining a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, and not smoking. Taking the time to talk to your family can also increase your chances of living a long and healthy life.