You great-aunt Edna had red hair. Your father is six feet tall. Your uncle served in the military, and your brother is following in his footsteps. It usually is easy to track the physical or historical information about a family. But what about your family’s health history? Did your grandmother have breast cancer when she died at age 45? Has anyone in your family tree had heart disease?
It is important to know your family medical history because this information may hold the key to your future. Many physical traits, such as hair color and height, are inherited. Certain health conditions also can be passed on from one generation to the next. When several family members have heart disease, diabetes or some cancers, you may be at increased risk for that health problem as well.
This does not mean you will automatically inherit high blood pressure or ovarian cancer. But by compiling your family medical history, you can have a greater understanding of your health risks and take steps to reduce or prevent adverse health outcomes. The best way to start a family health history is to talk to relatives. Start with information about yourself and add medical background on your parents, siblings and children. Then start going back one generation at a time to include extended family members.
Doctors Hospital at White Rock Lake offers a free mobile app designed to help you track your health information. The app can be downloaded from iTunes, BlackBerry AppWorld or Android Market. Search for “Doctors Hospital at White Rock Lake”.
A family health history is a living document that should be reviewed and updated every couple of years. For a free, downloadable version of My Family Health Portrait developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, visit https://familyhistory.hhs.gov.
Doctors Hospital at White Rock Lake