What is Family Health History and Why Is It Important?

What is Family Health History and Why Is It Important?

Your family health history is the collection of health information about you and your family, including conditions, treatments, and lifestyles. These details can provide information about your own health. Because families have similar genetic backgrounds (qualities and traits that are passed down from one generation to the next) - and often similar living environments - health care providers may be able to determine whether you are at risk of developing certain conditions.  

Sometimes, learning your family health history can help you see if you have a higher chance of having common conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or type 2 diabetes. It can also give more information about your risk of less common diseases that are tied to your DNA - the unique genetic code that makes up each person - such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell disease. It’s important to know that family health history doesn’t guarantee you will or won’t have a certain condition, but it can help you learn more about which diseases you might face in your life. 

When you have a better understanding of your risk for different conditions, you can make better choices to help lower your chances of developing some diseases. Lifestyle changes like a healthier diet and more exercise are prevention techniques for heart disease. Other times, health care providers might suggest more frequent checkups or testing to catch any conditions or symptoms that develop early. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, a complete family health record includes details from three generations of relatives: children, siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents, and cousins. You may not know everything about each of those family members, but giving your health provider as much as you know helps paint a fuller picture. 

If you’re interested in learning more about your family health history, you can join the All of Us Research Program. All of Us wants to help advance health research, and one way they are doing that is by studying DNA. If you provide your blood or saliva samples to All of Us, specially trained scientists will generate DNA data from your sample. The All of Us Research Program considers participants to be partners, so you can choose whether or not you want to receive your DNA results. These results may include things like ancestry (where your family comes from), traits (like whether you can digest milk), whether you may have a higher risk of developing some conditions, and how your body may respond to certain medications. This information can help you and your health care provider make more informed choices about your health.  

See how the All of Us Research Program benefits the future of health research and you: joinallofus.org/togetherDENVER 

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