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Why It’s Important to Know Your Family’s Medical History

healthcare professional with patient

Genes impact more than just eye color and height. They also play a big part in your health. The health of your family members and their medical conditions, past and present, could have a big impact on you, and it’s worth finding out as much as you can.

Reasons to know your family’s medical history

  • Figure out if you’re at risk for certain hereditary medical conditions. Dozens of diseases, illnesses and afflictions, some long-term or life threatening, have genetic components, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer and more.
  • Determine whether your children or other family members are at risk.
  • Get a diagnosis for an illness you didn’t know you have.
  • Choose appropriate genetic or other medical tests.
  • Figure out if you might benefit from preventive measures against specific conditions, including medications for certain disorders that can prevent their progression.
  • Create a plan for lifestyle changes to improve your overall health, such as taking steps to stave off obesity or addiction issues.

While a family history of illness doesn’t necessarily mean it will be passed on to you, knowing your family’s medical history can provide a more accurate picture of your health and help prevent and diagnose illnesses. Consider it a valuable tool for making good decisions about your health.

Start gathering your medical history by talking to relatives and use the Family Health Portrait Tool to save it.

Assembling your family’s medical information

Share your complete background, including race or ethnicity, with your doctor to stay one step ahead of any potential conditions. Gather and relay your family’s medical history, especially major issues, to provide accurate information to your physician.

If there’s adoption in your family, hunt down adoption records and see if they include any medical history. Even if it was a closed adoption, you might be able to contact the agency to see if there was any stray information you can piece together about biological parents or grandparents.

Download the no-cost Special Care Organizational Record if you have a child or adult family member with special needs.

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