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Christmas is a Great Opportunity to Review Family Health History

Family history can help predict future health problemsWhen the family is gathered together for Christmas, taking the time to talk about health could be valuable. A family health history might be able to predict—and possibly help prevent—future health problems. Experts say there is a strong connection between genetic history and increased risk for chronic disease.

  • Family history can help predict future health problems


When the family is gathered together for Christmas, taking the time to talk about health could be valuable. A family health history might be able to predict—and possibly help prevent—future health problems. Experts say there is a strong connection between genetic history and increased risk for chronic disease.

For example, if a family has a history of diabetes, a person may be able to minimize the risk of getting the disease by eating right, keeping their weight down and getting regular physical activity. The same is true of other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

It's easy to compile a family history by asking close relatives a few basic questions about medical conditions, such as:
  • With what major diseases has the family been diagnosed?
  • Who was diagnosed? At what age?
  • Was treatment successful?

A person should share this information with his or her health care provider so they can talk about ways to prevent or reduce the risks of the medical conditions identified in the family.

A collection tool widely used by the public is the Surgeon General's "My Family Portrait," which is available online. "My Family Portrait" makes it easy to compile a family history and share it with health care professionals as well as with your family members. The online version is available at https://familyhistory.hhs.gov/.