Your family history includes health information about you and your close relatives. Families have many factors in common, including their genes, environment, and lifestyle. Looking at these factors can help you figure out whether you have a higher risk for certain health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Having a family member with a disease raises your risk, but it does not mean that you will definitely get it. Knowing that you are at risk gives you a chance to reduce that risk by following a healthier lifestyle and getting tested as needed.
You can get started by talking to your relatives about their health. Draw a family tree and add the health information. Having copies of medical records and death certificates is also helpful.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Family History (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Medical History: Compiling Your Medical Family Tree (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Surgeon General's Family Health History Initiative (Department of Health and Human Services)
- Understanding and Collecting Your Family History (National Society of Genetic Counselors)
- Why Is It Important to Know My Family Medical History? (National Library of Medicine)
- Sleepwalking Parents Likely to Have Sleepwalking Kids (05/04/2015, HealthDay)
- Study Links Family History of Prostate Cancer to Breast Cancer Risk (03/09/2015, HealthDay)
- Creating a Family Health History (National Library of Medicine)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Family History (National Institutes of Health)
- Web-Based Risk Appraisal Tool Increases Capture of Family History Data in Electronic Health Records (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Surgeon General's perspectives: family health history:using the past to improve...
- Article: Performance characteristics of a brief Family History Questionnaire to screen...
- Article: The medical history update: compromised or complete? Obtaining--and maintaining--patient health...
- Family History -- see more articles
Law and Policy
- Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (National Human Genome Research Institute)
- Family Health History and Your Child (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Knowing Your Child's Medical History (Nemours Foundation) Available in Spanish
- Obtaining Background Information on Your Prospective Adopted Child (Children's Bureau)
- Family History Is Important for Your Health (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - PDF