Staying healthy (23)
- Cosmetic surgery: What to know beforehand
- Vaccines for adults: Which do you need?
- Cancer prevention: 7 tips to reduce your risk
- see all in Staying healthy
Dental care (7)
- Oral health: Brush up on dental care basics
- Oral health: A window to your overall health
- Calcium and calcium supplements: Achieving the right balance
- see all in Dental care
Skin care (17)
- Sunless tanning: A safe alternative to sunbathing
- Best sunscreen: Understand sunscreen options
- Skin care: 5 tips for healthy skin
- see all in Skin care
Nail care (1)
- Fingernails: Do's and don'ts for healthy nails
Eye care (9)
- Eye injury: Tips to protect vision
- Contact lenses: What to know before you buy
- LASIK eye surgery
- see all in Eye care
- Sleep aids: Understand over-the-counter options
- Napping: Do's and don'ts for healthy adults
- Sleep tips: 7 steps to better sleep
- see all in Sleep
Mental health (11)
- Empty nest syndrome: Tips for coping
- Self-esteem: 4 steps to feel better about yourself
- Self-esteem check: Too low, too high or just right?
- see all in Mental health
Healthy relationships (9)
- Domestic violence against men: Know the signs
- Domestic violence against women: Recognize patterns, seek help
- Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness
- see all in Healthy relationships
Healthy at work (12)
- Travel workout: Fitness tips for business travelers
- Workplace exercises: How to burn calories at work
- Desk stretches: How-to video collection
- see all in Healthy at work
Medical history: Compiling your medical family tree
What other sources of information may be beneficial?
You might want to consult family documents, such as existing family trees, baby books, old letters, obituaries or records from places of worship. Public records — birth certificates, marriage licenses and death certificates — are usually available in county record offices. If you or your family members maintain electronic personal health records, use them.
If you're adopted, ask your adoptive parents if they received any medical information about your biological parents at the time of your adoption. Adoption agencies also might have family medical information on file. If you were adopted through an open adoption process, you might be able to discuss your family's medical history directly with members of your biological family.
What information should be included in a family medical history?
If possible, your family medical history should include at least three generations. Compile information about your grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, siblings, cousins, children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren. For each person, try to gather the following information:
- Date of birth
- Medical conditions
- Mental health conditions, including alcoholism or other substance abuse
- Pregnancy complications, including miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects or infertility
- Age when each condition was diagnosed
- Lifestyle habits, including diet, exercise and tobacco use
- For deceased relatives, age at the time of death and cause of death
Pay special attention to conditions that develop earlier than usual, such as high blood pressure in early adulthood, or conditions that affect multiple relatives.
How should the information be compiled?
Once you've gathered information about your family, create a diagram that visually depicts the relationships among family members. Record medical information and other details about each person on your tree. If information about a disease or cause of death is unknown, don't guess at the answer. An incorrect guess can result in a poor interpretation of your medical history. Don't worry if some details are missing.
Give your doctor a copy of your family medical history and ask him or her to review it with you. Your doctor might ask you questions for clarification and can help you interpret the relevance of certain patterns in your medical history, including the need for preventive measures or screening tests. Going forward, update your family medical history every couple of years. Be sure to share updates with your doctor.Previous page
(2 of 2)
- Family medical history in disease prevention. American Medical Association. http://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/464/family_history02.pdf. Accessed Aug. 23, 2011.
- Maradiegue A, et al. An overview of ethnicity and assessment of family history in primary care settings. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. 2006;18:447.
- Family history is important for your health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/genomics/public/file/print/FamHistFactSheet.pdf. Accessed Aug. 23, 2011.
- Your family history — Your future. The American Society of Human Genetics. http://www.nsgc.org/client_files/consumer/family_history_logos.pdf. Accessed Aug. 23, 2011.
- The U.S. surgeon general's family history initiative. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.hhs.gov/familyhistory/start/startenglish.pdf. Accessed Aug. 23, 2011.