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Health eTips is produced by the staff of the St. Charles County Department of Public Health. The department consists of three divisions - Environmental Health and Protection, Health Services and Humane Services - that provide a wide range of services focused on enhancing the well-being of this community.

If you have questions about the Department of Public Health or have suggestions on public health topics you'd like to see explored in this blog, please email us.

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Dec 21

Family Health History

Posted on December 21, 2016 at 11:48 AM by Doug Bolnick


When sitting down with loved ones during the holidays, we relive favorite family memories. Although not nearly as funny as retelling the story of when the dog ate grandma’s birthday cake, this togetherness offers a perfect opportunity to discuss your family’s health history.
Photo of a multigenerational family
You may not realize that your uncle’s diabetes or your great grandfather’s skin disease could affect your health as well. However, your doctor could use this information to save your life or the lives of your children. By recognizing warning signs included in your family health information, a medical provider can make a better diagnosis, suggest preventative screenings or treat ailments at their basic stages.

Having a past link does not automatically mean that you will develop a certain disease yourself. But, many people with a family history of chronic illnesses can benefit from introducing good lifestyle habits — exercising, monitoring blood pressure and eating well — to minimize risks for disease development.

The best way to learn your family health history is to ask questions. Talk to relatives and record your family’s health information. Investigate your family tree to uncover trends and discover more about your heritage.

The U.S. Surgeon General has developed a website “My Family Health Portrait,” that can help track your family’s health history. Here are a few suggestions to aid in your collection:
  • Write down the names of close relatives (parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and others).
  • Ask about and list any medical conditions or chronic diseases for each of these individuals — including the age when these conditions first were diagnosed.List the countries or regions of the world where your relatives and their ancestors may have lived.
  • If any relatives have passed, list the cause of death and the age when they died.
  • Update your health history information regularly and routinely share it with relatives and your medical professional.