Family Health History
A peek into the past can reveal a lot about your future.
Family health history is the story of diseases that run in your family. It is one part of the entire history of your family. Along with culture, values, environment, and behaviors, family health history influences the way you live your life. Learning about your family health history can help you make healthy choices: it is a cheap, easy way to improve your own health and the health of your family. Share the information you gather with your healthcare provider to further reduce your risk of disease and create a partnership around your health.
Check out the Does It Run In the Family? toolkit in English and Spanish! “A Guide to Family Health History” explains the importance of family health history, how to collect it, and how to organize it. “A Guide to Genetics and Health” explains genetics 101 and gives information on conditions that can run in the family, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Customize these booklets for your family, organization, or community.
A Guide to Family Health History, English version, cover A Guide to Family Health History English
A Guide for Understanding Genetics and Health, English version, cover A Guide for Understanding Genetics and Health English
A Guide to Family Health History, Spanish version, cover A Guide to Family Health History Spanish
A Guide for Understanding Genetics and Health, Spanish version, cover A Guide for Understanding Genetics and Health Spanish
“A Guide to Family Health History” is also available in Chinese.
View several different versions on the Genetic Alliance YouTube Channel.
Tips For Collecting Your Family Health History
Learn all you can about your family’s health!
How do I collect family health history?
Talk to your family!
Holidays and other family events (birthdays, weddings, religious gatherings) provide a great opportunity to ask family members about their lives.
Plan individual conversations to get more information.
Use what you have—existing charts or trees, photo albums, baby books, birthday date books, etc.
Send a survey. This can be part of a holiday newsletter or school project.
What information should I collect?
Collect this information for you, your parents, siblings, and children, and then move on to the extended family:
- name and relationship to you (myself, parent, child, etc.)
- ethnicity, race, and/or origins of family
- place and date of birth (or your best guess—for example, “1940s”)
- if deceased, age and cause of death
- health history—include conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer—and when the disease started
- lifestyle (occupation, exercise, diet, habits such as smoking and regular doctor check-ups)
Collect stories about your heritage and culture. This is an excellent opportunity to preserve your family’s memories.
“Conversations about family health history should be ongoing, not a one-time topic to be discussed and forgotten. What you learn can shape your future and even save your life.”
Sharon Terry, President & CEO, Genetic Alliance
What should I do with the information I collect?
Bring it to your healthcare provider. S/he might refer you to a genetics specialist or recommend early screening.
Use it to make healthy lifestyle choices. You can change your diet and exercise habits to reduce your risk for many conditions.
Share it with your family. Shared knowledge can lead to support.
Keep adding to your family health history. It is a lifelong process!
For more family health history resources, click here.
via Family Health History | Genetic Alliance.
Authors: Chuong B. Do, David A. Hinds, Uta Francke, Nicholas Eriksson
The clinical utility of family history and genetic tests is generally well understood for simple Mendelian disorders and rare subforms of complex diseases that are directly attributable to highly penetrant genetic variants. However, little is presently known regarding the performance of these methods in situations where disease susceptibility depends on the cumulative contribution of multiple genetic factors of moderate or low penetrance. Using quantitative genetic theory, we develop a model for studying the predictive ability of family history and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)–based methods for assessing risk of polygenic disorders. We show that family history is most useful for highly common, heritable conditions (e.g., coronary artery disease), where it explains roughly 20%–30% of disease heritability, on par with the most successful SNP models based on associations discovered to date. In contrast, we find that for diseases of moderate or low frequency (e.g., Crohn disease) family history accounts for less than 4% of disease heritability, substantially lagging behind SNPs in almost all cases. These results indicate that, for a broad range of diseases, already identified SNP associations may be better predictors of risk than their family history–based counterparts, despite the large fraction of missing heritability that remains to be explained. Our model illustrates the difficulty of using either family history or SNPs for standalone disease prediction. On the other hand, we show that, unlike family history, SNP–based tests can reveal extreme likelihood ratios for a relatively large percentage of individuals, thus providing potentially valuable adjunctive evidence in a differential diagnosis.
In clinical practice, obtaining a detailed family history is often considered the standard-of-care for characterizing the inherited component of an individual’s disease risk. Recently, genetic risk assessments based on the cumulative effect of known single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) disease associations have been proposed as another potentially useful source of information. To date, however, little is known regarding the predictive power of each approach. In this study, we develop models based on quantitative genetic theory to analyze and compare family history and SNP–based models. Our models explain the impact of disease frequency and heritability on performance for each method, and reveal a wide range of scenarios (16 out of the 23 diseases considered) where SNP associations may already be better predictors of risk than family history. Our results confirm the difficulty of obtaining accurate prediction when SNP or family history–based methods are used alone, and they show the benefits of combining information from the two approaches. They also suggest that, in some situations, SNP associations may be potentially useful as supporting evidence alongside other types of clinical information. To our knowledge, this study is the first broad comparison of family history– and SNP–based methods across a wide range of health conditions.
via PLOS Genetics: Comparison of Family History and SNPs for Predicting Risk of Complex Disease.
Historic BSG logo 1990-2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Core is the only charity in the UK that funds research into the entire range of gut, liver, intestinal and bowel illnesses. We are called Core because the digestive system is at the core of our body and a good digestive system is the core of good health.
The charity was established in 1971 with the help and support of the British Society of Gastroenterologists and today it supports Clinical Research Fellows and Research Scientists at hospitals and universities throughout the UK, investigating conditions such as pancreatitis, hepatitis, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and digestive cancers. All research that we fund is rigorously peer-reviewed. Core is a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities.
We have a major interest in providing patients with good, accurate information about their illness. We publish 25 patient information leaflets and 15 fact-sheets explaining the nature of various gut illnesses and their treatment. Some 200,000 are distributed annually.
- More than £5.5 million invested in research since 2000
- Finding cures for diseases from Crohn’s disease and IBS, to liver disease and bowel cancer.
- Working with leading gastroenterologists across the UK
- Funding research in the UK’s leading hospitals and research centres