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To maintain good health, it is important to eat well, exercise regularly, get adequate rest, and partner with your medical professional, making and keeping wellness appointments and completing required health screenings. The goal of each of these is to establish healthy habits that lead to complete wellness.

An important part of your doctor/patient relationship is the disclosure of personal and family health history.
• Your personal health history is a list of conditions, diseases, surgeries, or other diagnoses that you’ve had.
• Your family health history is a list of conditions and diseases that close family members have had. Close family members generally include parents, grandparents, and siblings.

Your family health history will provide your physician with information that he or she can use to determine possible health risks. It’s important to note, however, that just because a family member was diagnosed with a disease or suffered a health crisis, it doesn’t automatically put you at risk; many lifestyle factors are in play when looking at causes for heart disease and certain cancers. However, certain diseases are known to have a genetic component, and knowing the family medical history can help a physician determine needed screenings and possible treatments. Additionally, doctors look at patterns and trends in family history, including more than one family member being diagnosed with the same disease or family members diagnosed with a certain disease at an earlier age than normally expected.

To collect a complete family health history, consider letting family members know what you want to know and why it is important. Collecting a family health history can benefit all members of the family, and individuals may be more willing to share if they understand how it can help them. Create a shared document or you can create one on My Family Health Portrait, a free site sponsored by the U.S. Surgeon General. You can find it at

Take time to gather all of the information that you can and share it with your doctor. Be respectful of those who are reluctant to share. You can always leave the door open for more conversation later. The more information you have about your own health habits, your own health history, and your family’s health history, the better able you will be to reduce your health risks and improve your overall wellness.