Parkridge Medical Group November 20, 2015

Are you up to date on your family medical history?

Many diseases, including heart disease, birth defects and certain types of cancer, run in families, so you are more likely to develop them if your mother, father or another close relative was affected. Having a basic knowledge of your family medical history helps your doctor determine what diseases you may have a greater risk for and tailor preventive strategies, such as more frequent screenings or genetic testing, as needed.

You likely know if your mother or father had heart disease, but you may know less about the health of your grandparents, aunts and uncles. Creating a family health record that dates back at least three generations offers a broad picture of your health risks and serves as a guide for future generations.

Ready, Set, Type!

The Surgeon General has named Thanksgiving Day as National Family History Day, but you don’t have to wait until a holiday to get started. Using an online tool, such as the U.S. Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait, is an easy way for families to create, share and update a medical family tree.

If you’re completing your medical family tree online, share the link with Internet-savvy family members so they can update their information at their convenience. Do you have “unplugged” family members, or would you prefer to document your family health history in an heirloom, such as a family Bible? Plan a reunion or institute monthly family dinners to review and update your medical family tree. The time you spend together will do more than help you take charge of your health—it will also offer an opportunity for family members who don’t often see one another to reconnect.

To find a primary care physician who can help you evaluate your family medical history, visit