December 2014

Print this issue

A Priceless Gift: Your Family Health History

Conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes often run in families. Tracing the illnesses of your parents, grandparents, and other blood relatives can help your health care practitioner predict your risk for specific disorders. It could suggest vital screening tests and treatments before any disease is evident. That’s why it’s so important to discuss your family’s health history.

The U.S. Surgeon General has an online tool, My Family Health Portrait, that can help you gather and record your family health history. The tool lets you save family information to your own computer and share health histories with other family members. The tool is available in English, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.

Before you start using this tool, talk with family members to gather details about their health histories. The Surgeon General offers tips on starting the conversations at www.hhs.gov/familyhistory/start/startenglish.pdf.

In the future, tests may make it possible to identify and possibly fix the gene glitches that raise a person’s risk for diseases. NIH is now working on technology that will help doctors quickly create a health plan based on a person’s unique genetic blueprint. In the meantime, family health history is a no-cost way to help doctors personalize your health care.

As the holiday season continues, start a new tradition and create a family health portrait. This will truly be a priceless gift to you, your family, and future generations.