Have you noticed that when you go to a new doctor you are asked questions about your family members’ medical history? Have you ever wondered why? While having family members that have been diagnosed with certain conditions does not mean that you or someone else in your family will also develop that condition, it may put you at higher risk.

Knowing this information is a great first step, but don’t stop there! Write it down. It is easier to remember the information when you have it written down. There are many templates and online tools to help keep track of this important information. One great resource is from The Surgeon, it’s an online tool called My Family Health Portrait to track and store your family health history. Share the information you have gathered with those that need to know, including your doctors and other family members. Based on the information that you provide, your doctor may have certain screenings done earlier than is recommended for the general public. Early detection of a health condition can lower your risk of progression and complications.

Who should you ask? The most important people to ask are your blood relatives including parents, siblings, and children. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews are next. Gather information including what conditions and diseases they were diagnosed with and at what age their diagnosis was made.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and the holidays and may provide an opportunity to talk to your family members about their health history. Take advantage of family time this holiday season and commit to starting the conversation about your family’s medical history. Remember that medical histories can be a difficult topic to talk about so be sensitive when discussing.

Family Health History Checklist:

1. Ask Questions. Ask about chronic diseases, history of cancer or stroke and other conditions. Also ask about the age of diagnosis

2. Record the Information. Choose an online template or keep a journal with the information handy.

3. Share family health information with your doctor. Share any concerns that you may have.

4. Share family health information with other family members


Sources: CDC. Lifework Strategies, Adventist HealthCare. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.