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You've arrived at your doctor's office on time and ready for your appointment. Then, the office staff hands you a clipboard full of paperwork you need to fill out. A familiar scene in any physician's waiting room around the nation, and for good reason. Filling out that medical information may give your doctor some insight into your medical past, and may even help ensure a safer physical future. (Read about "Medical Information")
There is even more you can do to help your healthcare provider. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), knowing your family history might be one of the strongest factors in determining your risk of disease, and helping with prevention. You can do that by collecting your family health history and creating what is called a family health portrait. Our Family Health Portrait Form can help.
Simply click on the link for the form. You can fill out this form online and either save it or print it. To save, click the "Save" icon, name the form, and save to either your computer hard drive, other storage device. To print, use the "Print" button. The information you enter will NOT be saved anywhere else once the window is closed. This is to protect your privacy. When you're done, simply close the form window and continue using our site.
Now, whenever you go to the doctor, the hospital or any other healthcare provider, you should bring this information with you. It will help you fill out that paperwork and provide valuable information to the medical personnel who care for you.
Changing your genetic makeup is not an option, but according to CDC, knowing your genetic makeup, your family history, can leave you with a map of sorts of what you can expect down the road, and may even be able to help you chart a new course of direction. CDC says that the key features of a family history that may increase risk include:
Healthcare professionals have known for years that many common diseases are genetic, or run in families. For example, if one generation of a family has heart disease (Read about "The Heart & Cardiovascular System"), it is not unusual for the next generation to have cardiac problems. According to the United States Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), tracing diseases like heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, alcoholism and depression (Read about "Cancer: What It Is" "Stroke" "Diabetes" "Alcoholism" "Depressive Illnesses") may help your doctor predict the disorders of which you may be at risk. Even knowledge of rare diseases like hemophilia, sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis (Read about "Bleeding Disorders" "Sickle Cell Disease" "Cystic Fibrosis") can be extremely helpful in taking action to help keep you and your family healthy.
Just how important is your family's health portrait? It is so important that the US government has established a day for it. The Surgeon General declared Thanksgiving 2004 the first annual National Family History Day. Pretty clever, considering many families gather on this day anyway. The Surgeon General encourages families to sit around and talk, and perhaps even write down the health problems that seem to run in their family. The effort, according to HHS, can prove to ensure many holidays together in the years to come.
While 96 percent of Americans are aware of the importance of their health history, a recent survey found that only one-third have ever tried to gather and write down their family's health history, according to HHS. To get the most accurate health history information, it is important to talk directly with your relatives. Explain to them that their health information can help improve prevention and screening of diseases for all family members. The most important family members to get information about are your direct relatives. That includes your parents, siblings and children. Next should come your grandparents, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews and half-brothers and half-sisters. Finally, if you can, obtain information on your cousins, great-uncles and great aunts.
Start by asking your relatives about any health conditions they have had - including history of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, pregnancy complications, such as miscarriage, and any developmental disabilities. Get as much specific information as possible. It is most useful if you can list the formal medical name of any medical condition that has affected you or your relatives.
After you have the information, draw a chart showing how people are related to each other - kind of like a family tree - and place the information with each name. (Our Family Health Portrait Form) shows you how. This will give your healthcare provider a visual representation of how a particular trait or disease is passed on from generation to generation.
If you are planning to have children, you and your partner should each create a family health portrait and show it to your healthcare provider.
One other issue - the Surgeon General points out that some conditions are more common in people with a shared background or ancestry. (Read about "Minority Health") It is important to record the ancestry of your relatives and be as specific as possible. For example, if you know that your grandmother is Hispanic and her family comes from Mexico, write "Mexican" underneath her name. Likewise, if your family is from Africa, Asia, Europe or South America, note the country they came from, if possible.
Having a family history of a disease does not necessarily mean you or a close family member will definitely develop it. It does mean, however, that you may have the most to gain from making lifestyle changes that can lower your risks. According to CDC, changing behaviors that affect your health, like smoking, inactivity and poor eating habits, can reduce your risk of disease - even if it runs in your family. (Read about "Quit Smoking" "Getting Started on Fitness")
Other ways family history can help is to encourage the entire family to take part in screening tests such as mammograms, blood tests and certain cancer screenings. (Read about "Mammograms" "Complete Blood Count" "Laboratory Testing" "Cancer Check-ups") Finding disease early, according to CDC can mean better health in the long run.
On the flip side, thinking that your family history is clear of any chronic disease is no reason to stop taking good care of yourself. According to CDC, you could still be at risk based on some the following factors:
Be sure to make a copy of your family health history for your records and update it as circumstances change or you learn more about your family's health history.
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
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