Families have many factors in common, including their genes, environment and lifestyle. These three things combined allow your doctors to understand if you, your family members or future generations could have a higher risk for developing certain diseases so you can get additional screenings to possibly prevent them. It does not mean you will definitely develop a condition, so knowing your family history is not something you should fear.

According to a study conducted by Center for Disease Control (CDC), 96 percent of Americans believe knowing their family history is important, but only one third have actually gathered the information. 

Sept TKS Family History 1

Use these helpful tips to collect and share your family health history. 

Use time spent with family to start the conversation. Casual family get-togethers are the perfect place to gather information from the most important people to your history—your parents, your siblings and your children, if you have them—before knowing the information becomes a necessity. You likely already know many of the answers to immediate family, but they are a great resource for learning about grandparents and extended family like aunts and uncles. 

Know the right questions to ask. Apart from asking which chronic diseases and illnesses family members have had, it’s also beneficial to know when the conditions were diagnosed and what the outcome of treatment was. Consider family members who have passed and what the cause of their death was at which age. Many people do not think of family heritage as a factor in health, but some diseases occur more commonly in certain groups of people, and you should be aware what those conditions are. 

Keep records of the information you discover. Health history can be a lot of information to track. Free, online tools can help you stay organized and share the information with your family. You should review and update these records as family health changes, so future generations and extended family can benefit. 

Share updated family heath history with your doctor. It is important to communicate the information you learn with your doctor proactively so he or she can identify potential health risks and begin any steps toward prevention. Sharing these details also helps your doctor understand your family’s beliefs about the illness and your response to medical advice for future treatment plans. 

For expanded information on collecting family health history, visit the CDC website. If you or a loved one is currently living with a chronic illness and you have healthcare questions, call 1.866.KINDRED and speak with a Registered Nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

By Blair Klayko