Good Health: It’s a Family Affair

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Good Health: It’s a Family Affair

Knowing your family’s health history could go a long way toward keeping you healthy

Do you know what caused your grandfather’s death? What caused your great aunt Bertha’s blindness? Do your brothers or sisters have high blood pressure? Knowing your family’s health history could go a long way toward keeping you healthy.

About 96 percent of all Americans think knowing family health history is important, according to a recent survey conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services. Yet only one-third of those surveyed have actually tried to piece that history together. To help the rest of us, the Department of Health and Human Services launched the Family History Initiative.

The goal of tracing your family’s health history is to help you learn about the common diseases (heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes) and rare disorders (hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia) that affected your parents, grandparents and other blood relatives. “The earlier you know which health conditions run in your family, the easier it is to develop prevention plans with your doctor,” explains former U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H.

By visiting hhs.gov/familyhistory, you’ll find a tool that teaches you how to organize your family’s health history. You may then print your family health history out to review with your doctor and share with your family. “Knowing your family history,” Carmona said, “can save your life.”

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