By Elyssa Gray, genetic counseling student
While families are gathering for the holidays, the Surgeon General encourages Americans to discuss and share information about their health.
A detailed family health history is an invaluable tool to share with your provider and can be used to take control of your healthcare. This history can identify health concerns that you are at a higher risk for, and allow for management of your personal risk. Common health concerns include but are not limited to: cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Genetics and family history cannot be changed; however, having information about your risk for disease can be empowering to make informed decisions about your healthcare in efforts to minimize risk.
Whether you know a lot or a little about your family health history, the first step is to talk to your family. It is important to ask questions to clarify information such as age of onset, presence of any birth defects, or types of cancer. The CDC’s, “My Family Health Portrait,” is an online tool that can help you record this information in the form of a pedigree, which is similar to a family tree that can be added to your medical record. After assembling your information, the pedigree and summary table can be downloaded and printed to be shared with other family members and your health care provider.
This holiday season, consider chatting about family medical history over a slice of pie or cup of hot chocolate. Gathering this information could have a large effect on your personal healthcare journey.
Want more information? Visit the Surgeon General’s My Family Health History Initiative webpage.
With your family now? Create a family health history.