The history you share with your family connects you to your past, but it can also ground you in the present, and help prepare you for tomorrow.
This is most clear with your family health history, considered a cornerstone for every medical record. Knowing about your parents’ or siblings’ health adds another dimension to what you already know about yourself. This knowledge raises awareness of what to look out for. It gives you and your doctor another layer of information for helping to keep you well.
The problem is that many of us are entirely unaware of our family’s health history. Sometimes our knowledge doesn’t go beyond our parents. Yet knowing whether hypertension or diabetes or certain types of cancer run in your family could be vital for you. So how can you document and keep track of this information?
Family Health History Tree
23andMe just launched a new tool for Health + Ancestry Service customers in the U.S. and Canada that could help, called the Family Health History Tree.
Much like any family tree, this one offers a visual representation of how you connect to different relatives. But this tree adds the ability to include important medical conditions, offering you a visual record of current and past health issues for you and your close relatives.
The 23andMe Family Health History Tree is meant to include information about close family members. You may consider including your parents, children, grandparents, siblings, half-siblings, aunts, and uncles. These are the relatives with whom you share the most DNA. Beyond sharing DNA, your close family members also often have other things in common that can influence your health. We might live in the same geographic area, eat the same cuisine, and have similar lifestyle choices, like whether we choose to smoke or drink alcohol. These environmental factors, together with genetics, all play a role in your health.
Knowledge is Power
That’s why knowing about health conditions that affected your relatives may help you understand more about your own health. The Family Health History Tree is more than just a record. It is a visual representation of these family connections. Adding in health conditions offers you a better way to track this information to help you and a healthcare professional manage your health.
So what kind of health information should you add to your Family Health History Tree?
We know that remembering the exact medical name of a condition can be difficult. That’s why we’ve added a function that will offer suggestions as you start typing a condition name. Adding condition names, dates, and age of diagnosis can be helpful, but we also know that remembering specific dates can also be difficult. That’s OK. Your best guess is fine.
Your family health history is a powerful tool for managing your health, but it may include sensitive information about your living relatives. Before you enter sensitive information about living relatives, you should make sure you have their permission to do so. In addition, please respect a person’s wishes to maintain the privacy of their sensitive health information when discussing with others. 23andMe does not share individual customer data without their consent. And we never share this data with employers or insurers or third-party marketers.
You can learn more about 23andMe’s privacy protections here.
23andMe’s Family Health History Tree is a tool for you to help you manage your health.