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Keeping Track of Your Medical History

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Updated February 23, 2009

Keeping Track of Your Medical History

Is it in your family? Find out your medical history.

Photo: New Vision Technologies Inc / Getty Images

As you may know, your medical history is your personal record of health information including some health information about your close relatives. It is important to maintain because family members share many common traits, physically and socially, including genes, environment, diet and lifestyle. How other family members react to these conditions can be an indicator as to how you might react to similar conditions –- or diseases you may be a risk for.

By reviewing your family medical history, your doctor might be able determine if you are at a higher risk for such things as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers, and diabetes.

To maintain the most complete record possible, you should try to compile information from three generations of relatives, including your siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents, and cousins. At the very least, information about your immediate family –- siblings, parents and sometimes children -– should be included. The easiest way to compile this information is to talk with family members. You may find that you can offer to share this information, which might open the door to more fruitful discussions.

If you know your family’s medical history, you can take steps to reduce your own risk for getting the disease. Or, in the case of a condition like lupus, be aware of the signs and symptoms so you can recognize them early.

Furthermore, as a patient, you can help the doctor diagnose your disease by asking for and keeping your own medical records. Some medical offices may charge you for copying your chart, but it’s not unusual to ask for your medical information. If you switch physicians, don’t forget to ask for your medical records to be moved as well. Most doctors' offices will do this anyway, but it helps to make sure your chart is following you.

Sources:

Why is it important to know my family medical history? Genetics Home Reference. U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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