Family health

Family medical history: the basics

A family medical history is a record of your family’s illnesses and health problems. You and your family members share genes. You may also have behaviors in common, such as exercise habits and what you like to eat. You can live in the same area and come into contact with similar things in the environment. Family history includes all of these factors, each of which can affect your health.

You may know a lot about your family medical history or only a little. To get the full picture, use family gatherings as a time to talk about your medical history. If possible, consult death certificates and family medical records. Collect information about your parents, sisters, brothers, half-sisters, half-brothers, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. Include information on major medical conditions, causes of death, age at diagnosis of illness, age at death, and ethnicity. Be sure to update the information regularly and share what you learn with your family and your doctor. You can use the Surgeon General’s web tool called “My Portrait of Family Health” to keep track of information.

Most people have a family history of at least one chronic disease, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. If you have a close family member with a chronic disease, you may be more likely to develop the disease yourself, especially if more than one close relative has (or had) the disease or if a family member contracted the disease at a younger age than usual.

Collect your family medical history before visiting the doctor and take it with you. Even if you don’t know all of your family medical history information, share what you do know. Family medical history information, even if incomplete, can help your doctor decide which screening tests you need and when to start them.

You can’t change your genes, but you can change unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, not exercising or being active, and poor eating habits. If you have a family history of the disease, you may have the most to gain from lifestyle changes and screening tests. In many cases, healthy lifestyle habits can reduce your risk of diseases that run through your family. Screening tests, such as blood sugar tests, mammograms, and colorectal cancer screening, help detect early signs of the disease. Finding disease early can often mean better long-term health.

  • Did your mother or sister have breast cancer? Talk to your doctor about whether having a mammogram earlier is right for you.

  • Does your mother, father, sister or brother have diabetes? Ask your doctor when you should be screened for diabetes.

  • Did your mother, father, brother or sister contract colorectal (colon) cancer before the age of 50? Talk to your doctor about whether you should start having colonoscopies earlier or have them done more often.

Our Family Clinic in Hulett provides ongoing, comprehensive health care to individuals and families. Family practice or primary care providers serve all people of all ages. Our team helps patients establish a medical home to monitor your health and manage chronic diseases and conditions. In addition to comprehensive primary care services, we also provide women’s health services.

Located in Red Bluffs Medical Center in Hulett, the family clinic serves Hulett and surrounding communities. When you need to see a specialist, we can help you quickly coordinate a referral within the Campbell County Medical Group clinic system.