What health risks run in your family?

by Kaiser Permanente |
Daughter hugging mother

At family gatherings, you and your loved ones probably trade favorite stories passed down over the years. Next time, consider sharing other kinds of stories — ones that can shape your family health history going forward.

Creating a family health history, also called a medical family tree, can help you learn about health issues that run in your family.

Why put together a family health history?

A family health history is one of the simplest and most powerful tools in modern medicine. It’s essentially a piece of paper that outlines your relatives’ medical conditions. And it’s a powerful source of information that can help guide your family’s medical care.

Family history of a disease may increase your risk of getting that disease. If you know you’re at risk, you can work with your doctor to help lower your risk.

How to create a family history

The standard is a three-generation family tree. This includes yourself, your parents, and their parents, plus all of their siblings and children.

Try to get as many medical details as possible about each person, including:

  • Specific names of diseases or disorders
  • Treatments and interventions
  • The age the person was first diagnosed
  • Information about intellectual disability, birth defects, and lifestyle habits such as smoking, alcohol, or drug use

What to do with your family health history

Share your family health history with your personal doctor. They should be able to answer questions and talk with you about how to optimize your health.

You can also share this information with your children and other relatives. That way, they’ll have a good understanding of their risks, too. The more your family knows about these things, the more you can all do to help each other live a healthy life.

Knowing your history can help you build a healthier future as a family

The more you know about your family health history, the more you can do to help your family stay healthy and live long, healthy lives.