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Your family history holds key information about your past and clues to your future health. Many of your physical traits (such as eye color, hair color, and height) are inherited. So, too, are risks for certain genetic conditions and health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. You may have noticed that some of your relatives are healthier and live longer than other relatives. You may also have noticed that some relatives have the same health problems. By collecting your family’s health history, you can learn what health problems you may be at increased risk for in the future and how to reduce your risks. For instance, people at increased risk for heart disease may be able to reduce their risk through not smoking, regular exercise and diet. Finding out your family history can benefit both you and your relatives… and it can be fun too!
You can collect your family history by talking to your relatives. Start with your parents if they are living. Older relatives are often good sources of information. Some relatives may not want to share their medical histories or they may not know their family history. However, whatever information you discover will be helpful. Vacations, holidays and family reunions can be good times to collect this information. As each generation ages, important information can be forgotten or lost – so now is the time to start your project! If you are adopted, you may be able to learn some of your family history through the parent(s) that adopted you or from adoption agency records.
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