A family medical history is a record of health information about a person and his or her close relatives. A complete record includes information from three generations of relatives, including children, brothers and sisters, parents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents, and cousins.
Families have many factors in common, including their genes, environment, and lifestyle. Together, these factors can give clues to medical conditions that may run in a family. By noticing patterns of disorders among relatives, healthcare professionals can determine whether an individual, other family members, or future generations may be at an increased risk of developing a particular condition.
A family medical history can identify people with a higher-than-usual chance of having common disorders, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers, and diabetes. These complex disorders are influenced by a combination of genetic factors, environmental conditions, and lifestyle choices. While a family medical history provides information about the risk of specific health concerns, having relatives with a medical condition does not mean that an individual will definitely develop that condition. On the other hand, a person with no family history of a disorder may still be at risk of developing that disorder.
Knowing one’s family medical history allows a person to take steps to reduce his or her risk. You should address any concerns you have about your family history with your physician or another qualified healthcare professional such as a genetics counselor.
Other available resources and family history tools can be found at these websites
- NIH U.S. National Library of Medicine-http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/familyhistory.html
- Surgeon General’s Family History Initiative-http://www.hhs.gov/familyhistory/
- National Society of Genetic Counselors-http://nsgc.org/p/cm/ld/fid=52
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - http://www.cdc.gov/genomics/famhistory/index.htm
- Gene Ed –http://geneed.nlm.nih.gov/topic_subtopic.php?tid=5&sid=13
- NIH Senior Care -http://nihseniorhealth.gov/creatingafamilyhealthhistory/whycreateafamilyhealthhistory/01.html