02/14 Health & Wellness Tip – Family Health History

Do you know your family’s health history? Did any of your grandparents have diabetes? Heart disease? Cancer? How about your parents? Aunts? Uncles? Siblings?

Information is power! If you don’t know your family’s health history, talk with your family members. Find out what you can. If you have a family health history tree already, take some time to make sure it is up-to-date.

The Centers for Disease Control says this about your family health history:

Family health history is a record of the diseases and health conditions present in your family. Family health history is a useful tool for understanding health risks and preventing disease. To help people collect and organize their family history information, CDC’s Office of Public Health Genomics collaborated with the US Surgeon General and other federal agencies to develop a Web-based tool called My Family Health Portrait

Heart disease runs on both sides of my parents’ families. Some cancers do too. I have lost two uncles to colon cancer. I have had two colonoscopies and I’m not 50 yet. I want to know this information so that I can be more informed. I can make better decisions about my own health and how I choose to live my life.

“Clean” genetics doesn’t mean you are immune from illness. And genetic predisposition doesn’t mean you are doomed. Whether or not there is any disease in your family’s health history, you should take control of your risk by living a healthy lifestyle.

Now, there are no guarantees. I eat healthy, I exercise, I practice stress management and self-care, I have a positive attitude, and I am proactive in my healthcare. That doesn’t mean I won’t get diagnosed with cancer or heart disease. It just means that I choose to be an active participant in my health and that I want to have as much control over my health as possible.

You can use these tools or create your own to help with the conversation about your family’s health history.

Online tool – My Family Health Portrait (you can save your information for future use)

Printable form – AHA’s Family Health Tree PDF

by Michele Spear