What is the Importance of Your Family Health History?
You inherit half of your genetic makeup from each parent. Along with the genetic information that dictates your physical appearance, you also inherit genes that may cause or increase your risk for certain diseases or medical conditions. A family health history can provide insight into the diseases and medical conditions that are common in your family.
What Information Should be Included?
Your family health history should include at least three generations of family members. It is beneficial to gather information about as many family members as you can. These can include:
- Your siblings
- Grandparents and great-grandparents
- Aunts and uncles
- Nieces and nephews
- Your children and grandchildren
Once you have gathered this information, you can use it to create a family tree that includes not only the relationships among family members but also important medical information about each family member. This allows doctors to trace patterns of health issues across generations.
Why Should I Give My Doctor a Copy of My Family Health History?
Once you have gathered the information needed to complete your family health history, you need to provide a copy for your doctor. In addition to using this information to assess your risk for developing certain diseases, your doctor can also use the information to help you in other ways. For example, your family health history can help your doctor determine the type and frequency of screening or genetic tests, or help recognize a condition that hadn’t been previously considered.Remember that a family health history isn’t a guaranteed prediction of your future health. It provides your doctor with a better assessment for determining your risks for developing particular diseases. There are other important factors that can further affect an inherited risk such as lifestyle and environmental factors.