Your health is determined by your genes, lifestyle and environment, and families often share all three, said Dr. Jeffrey McFadden, a physician at Family Medical Center in Rocky Mount.
Knowing which relatives have suffered from cancer, high blood pressure, asthma, depression or diabetes could help you and your physician prevent, diagnose or treat conditions that have been passed down the family tree, he
Other conditions that could be passed from one generation to another include heart disease, high cholesterol, stroke, cystic fibrosis, hemophilia and lung disease.
"Any family history is important and can give us clues into helping us diagnose a patient.
It makes the overall visit much more positive and fruitful.
We are able to sit down there and actually take time to discuss the problems as opposed to going off a checklist that they may or may not have a family history of," McFadden
When gathering information, people need to talk to blood relatives within two generations: parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings and children, McFadden
Try also to gather what information you can on relatives who already have died.
Be aware, though, that medical issues can be sensitive subjects.
"If there are brothers and sisters involved, sometimes it is easier to discuss with all of them included.
Say, 'Let's all sit down and discuss this.' As long as they feel one person isn't trying to point the finger or maybe trying to obtain information for other purposes, ... most people are pretty open to discussing with their families what their current medical problems are," McFadden