Knowing Your Family Health History

Primary care physician Stephanie Buckley, M.D., of Carroll Health Group Primary Care in Mount Airy, explains why knowing your family’s health history is important for your own health.

Why do health care providers ask for a patient’s family health history?
A patient’s health is impacted by both environment and genes. Family members often share similar environments, cultures and lifestyles, all of which can impact a person’s health. A family history allows us to gather information about which diseases an individual might be at risk for and perhaps require earlier screening for than the general population.

What are the most important things to know related to family history?
Men with a father or brother who was diagnosed with prostate cancer would be screened for prostate cancer themselves at age 45 rather than 50. If they have more than one first-degree relative with the disease, the screening age drops to 40 years.

For women, I advise most patients to start mammogram screenings for breast cancer at age 45. However, if a patient has a sister, mother or aunt who developed breast cancer before age 50, she may require screening at an earlier age.

For both men and women, knowing your family’s history of heart disease is very important as well, especially if family members have had early onset of the disease. Having a history of early heart disease may be an indication for a patient to receive an earlier cholesterol screening, which generally starts at age 35 years for men and 45 years for women if he or she is otherwise healthy and without risk factors.

How can patients knowing their family history improve their own health?
Everyone should exercise regularly, eat well-balanced diets and not smoke, but those who are predisposed to certain diseases due to either their genes or environment should especially try to follow a healthy lifestyle. Scheduling annual visits with yourprimary care physician is a great opportunity to go through your family history, assess for individual risks and take necessary interventions to improve your health.

To make an appointment with Dr. Buckley, please call 301-829-5906 or visit to find a primary care doctor.



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