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Each day, more and more people choose to eat healthier, exercise, or get tested for high blood pressure, diabetes, colon cancer, or other diseases. These actions can help you stay healthier, but don’t forget about your family’s health history, too.

478384809About 96% of Americans believe that knowing their family’s health history is important to their own health – that it could in fact save their lives. But only one-third of them have ever tried to gather and organize their families’ health history, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Your doctor can use your family health history to:

  • Estimate your risk for certain medical conditions.
  • Recommend treatments and lifestyle changes.
  • Determine what tests and screenings you should have.
  • Identify conditions that otherwise might not be considered.
  • Assess possible health risks for your children.

Ideally, your family health history should include the following information about each relative for at least 3 generations:

  • Sex
  • Date of birth (the approximate year of birth is usually enough)
  • Current age or, if the person is no longer living, cause of death and age at death
  • Diseases or medical conditions (including any history of colon polyps)
  • If the person had cancer (What type? How old were they when they were diagnosed?)
  • Any known behavioral factors, including diet, exercise, smoking and drinking habits, and any weight problems

Here are some websites that might be helpful if you are interested in putting together your family’s health history:

Make your health a priority by learning more about what you can do to stay well and help prevent some forms of cancer. For information, visit or call the American Cancer Society® at 1-800-227-2345 (Source: American Cancer Society)

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