Many websites are devoted to helping people search out their ancestors. Researching and sharing these stories weave family members together in a rich tapestry of shared experiences, culture and heritage.
Family history information can also be a powerful tool for promoting health and preventing disease. In fact, for many people, knowing their family health history can be lifesaving.
A family health history is simply an organized record of medical conditions and health-related lifestyle choices present in your family. By collecting your family health history, it’s possible to understand your risk for certain health problems and reveal hereditary risk factors, as well as take steps to lower that risk through appropriate lifestyle choices and medical care.
Collecting information on three or more generations of relatives is ideal. Start by writing down your own health information. Then include information on your immediate family (children, siblings, and parents). From there, branch out to extended family members.
For each individual, write down as many of the following items as possible:
- Country of ancestry (some health conditions are more common within ethnic groups)
- Individual medical conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, vision and hearing loss, mental illness, birth defects, learning disabilities, etc. (including age when diagnosed)
- Lifestyle habits such as diet, exercise, and smoking
- Date and cause of death
Often you can obtain information directly from your parents or other family members about deceased relatives. When collecting information, it’s best to confirm the information using public records such as death certificates. In some instances, your family members may be willing to share certain lab test results or medical records with you.
Genetic counselors are allied health professionals specifically trained to analyze family histories and the role genes play in health and disease.
During a genetic counseling appointment, the genetic counselor can identify potential hereditary diseases in a family and help individual family members understand their risk of being affected. They can also explain options for genetic testing, health management, disease prevention, and where to locate additional information such as community support resources.
For more information on genetic counseling in your area, call:
- Dixie Regional Medical Center: 801-507-3633
- Intermountain Medical Center: 801-507-3900, option 3
- Logan Regional Medical Center: 435-716-6400
- McKay-Dee Hospital: 801-387-7484
- Utah Valley Hospital: 801-357-7575