4 steps to collect family health history

Learn why it’s important.


Do you know your family health history? It’s important. If your parents or siblings have had a certain disease, you could be more likely to get it as well. 

Gathering your family health history can give you the information you need to create a plan of action. Remember: Finding disease early can often mean better health in the long run.


What you can do

Collecting your family health history is an important first step. Whether you know a lot about your family health history or not, take time to talk to your family. 

It might not be easy. Your family members might not want to talk. But starting the conversation is important. Remember, you’re asking not just for your own health, but for the health of everyone in your family. Here are four steps to collect your family health history.


1. Talk to your family 

Write down the names of your close relatives from both sides of the family. This includes parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. Talk to these family members about what conditions they have or have had, and at what age the conditions were first diagnosed. 

Share everything you know with your family. If you are one of the older members of your family, you may know more about diseases and health conditions in your family. This may be true especially in relatives who are no longer living. 

Be sure to also share the following: 

  • If you have a medical condition, such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes.
  • If you have had genetic testing done. 

2. Ask questions

To find out your risk for chronic diseases, ask your relatives about which of these diseases they have had and when they were diagnosed. Questions can include: 

  • Do you have any chronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes? 
  • Do you have any health conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
  • Have you had any other serious diseases, such as cancer or stroke? What type of cancer?
  • How old were you when each of these diseases or health conditions was diagnosed? (Knowing the approximate age is still useful.)
  • What is your family’s ancestry? From what countries or regions did your ancestors come to the United States?
  • What were the causes and ages of death for relatives who have died?

3. Record the information

Be sure to update it whenever you learn new details.

4. Share health history with your doctor

If you are concerned about diseases that are common in your family, talk with your doctor at your next visit. Even if you don’t know all of your family health history information, share what you do know.

It can help your doctor decide which screening tests you need and when those tests should start.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.