Many common disorders such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and mental illness can run in families. If you have knowledge of your family health history, it may be possible to predict, prevent or treat health problems that have affected previous generations.

Recording your family health history

Record all current and past health problems, noting if possible the year and or age at which a diagnosis was made or a family member died. Start with your own health record and that of your family members including your parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents and your children (if any). It is important to note the health history of your relatives on both your mother’s side and your father’s side of the family. Then add the details of your partner’s family. Where you have had more than one partner, also record their details if possible.

Try to complete 3 and preferably, 4 generations for each side of your family and your partner (or partners) family. To get this information, it may mean that you have to consider contacting family members with whom you are seldom in contact. Of course it may not always be possible to know or find out the health history of every family member for a number of reasons, including adoption, lack of family contact or missing medical information.

Sharing your family health information with your doctor

It is important that your doctor is kept up to date on your family health information. As new information becomes available, add it to your chart, record the date you updated the information and share it with your doctor.

Often the patterns that run in families can best be seen if put in the form of a family health tree. You may like to do this for yourself, working from your health table, or simply take the table of information to your doctor.

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