Why Should I Collect My Family Health History?

“Conversations about family health history should be ongoing, not a one-time topic to be discussed and forgotten. What you learn can shape your future and even save your life.”

- Sharon Terry, President & CEO, Genetic Alliance

Staying up-to-date on your family health history is a good way for you to learn about health issues that might affect you. It is also great for keeping in touch with your family!

Knowing your family health history is the first step on the road to better health. Family members share lots of things:

  • Genes: Your grandparents passed genes to your parents, who passed them to you.
  • Lifestyle: Chances are, if your parents are active, you also get plenty of exercise. If your family sits around and watches a lot of television, you probably do, too.
  • Environment: Whether you live in an apartment in the city or on a farm in the country, you and the people you live with breathe the same air, drink the same water, and more.

Genes, lifestyle, and environment all affect your risk for disease. When you know what runs in the family, you know more about your personal risk factors. If you are concerned about a disease running in your family, collect your family health history and talk to your healthcare provider at your next visit. She can evaluate all of the factors that contribute to your risk for diseases. Together with your doctor you can make healthy lifestyle changes to lower your risk or even prevent disease. In fact, your family health history might be one of the only things you know more about than your healthcare provider. She will not know what runs in your family unless you tell her, so try to collect all the information you can.