Learning About Your Family’s Heart History Can Help Your Future

If you knew you were more likely to develop future health problems, would you take preventive measures to lessen the chances or the severity of the condition? Although it might seem impossible to predict what our future holds in terms of health, the biggest indicator could be the past. We are often told history repeats itself, so it only makes sense that past family health conditions will occur more than once down a family line.

“Learning about your family’s medical history can help you partner with your path to better health,” said Marc S. Williams, MD, director of the Genomic Medicine Institute at Geisinger Health System.

Determining which health conditions run rampant in a family line can be a difficult and confusing process. Geisinger Medical Center recommends the following:


  • Talk to your family: The biggest source of which health conditions you might be most susceptible to is your family. The best place to start with researching your family history is your parents. If they are no longer living, older relatives are a great alternative.



  • Look at family ancestry resources: While it likely will require asking around, your family might already have the supplies needed for research. A family historian may have items such as family listings or trees that can help trace conditions back to family members.



  • Have the conversation: It can be an uncomfortable talk to have, but one of the best ways to know what you might face later on is talking to family members. Reach out to them and interview them about your family history. You can even reach out to family members individually, so you can get multiple sources for determining your family health history. If bringing up family health history in person is an uncomfortable situation, you can send surveys for family members to complete.



  • Create a family health tree: When gathering information about family health history, it is best to create a family tree and to keep track of health problems that run in the family. For more information on how to create a family tree, visit My Family Health Portrait.


  • Talk to your health care provider: The best person to discuss the results of your family health history with is your health care provider. A doctor can determine the best course of treatment and preventive measures to offset the chance of developing the condition.