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Give your doctor a
copy of your family
medical history and
ask him or her to
review it with you.
Your doctor might
ask you questions for
clarification and can
help you interpret
the relevance of
certain patterns in
your medical history,
including the need for
preventive measures
or screening tests.
Going forward,
update your family
medical history every
couple of years. Be
sure to share updates
with your doctor.
What other sources of
information may be
You might want to consult family
documents, such as existing family
trees, baby books, old letters, obituaries
or records from places of worship.
Public records - birth certificates,
marriage licenses and death certificates
- are usually available in county record
offices. If you or your family members
maintain electronic personal health
records, use them.
If you’re adopted, ask your adoptive
parents if they received any medical
information about your biological
parents at the time of your adoption.
Adoption agencies also might have
family medical information on file. If
you were adopted through an open
adoption process, you might be able
to discuss your family’s medical
history directly with members of your
biological family.
What information should be
included in a family medical
If possible, your family medical
history should include at least three
generations. Compile information
about your grandparents, parents,
uncles, aunts, siblings, cousins,
children, nieces, nephews and
grandchildren. For each person, try to
gather the following information:
• Sex
• Date of birth
• Ethnicity
• Medical conditions
• Mental health conditions, including
alcoholism or other substance abuse
• Pregnancy complications, including
miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects
or infertility
• Age when each condition was
• Lifestyle habits, including diet,
exercise and tobacco use
• For deceased relatives, age at the
time of death and cause of death
Pay special attention to conditions that
develop earlier than usual, such as high
blood pressure in early adulthood, or
conditions that affect multiple relatives.
How should the information
be compiled?
Once you’ve gathered information
about your family, create a diagram
that visually depicts the relationships
among family members. Record
medical information and other details
about each person on your tree. If
information about a disease or cause
of death is unknown, don’t guess at
the answer. An incorrect guess can
result in a poor interpretation of your
medical history. Don’t worry if some
details are missing.
July/Aug 2014