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Taking Your Family's Measure

Mountain View, CA - November 22, 2011 - In 2004, Thanksgiving was officially declared Family History Day by the U.S. Surgeon General. With millions of families gathering for this annual feast, it's a time to share stories about travails and triumphs--including health matters. What better time to collect a Family Medical History?

Family history has been referred to as the most basic genetic test and the best link to personalized medicine that focuses on prevention and treatment to achieve better health outcomes. According to the Healthstyles 2004 survey, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some 96% of Americans agree that their family's health history is important, yet only one-third have ever tried to gather it and write it down. That task has just been made easier with the El Camino Hospital Family Medical History Tool powered by DNA Direct® by Medco™, a web-based tool that helps catalog and analyze the medical history information of family members. By uncovering health patterns among relatives, it's possible to learn about potential hereditary risks for conditions that may have a genetic component.

Developing a family health history can be eye-opening. Seven of the ten leading causes of death have a strong family component, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer's Disease and kidney disease. Because family members often share not only genetics but environment and lifestyle, studying patterns of illness (or wellness) in your family history could help you to take steps to reduce risk, such as healthy lifestyle changes and more frequent screenings for conditions prevalent among relatives. The most important beneficiaries of documenting your family medical history, however, will be your children and grandchildren, giving them a head start on managing and avoiding health risks. A complete family tree includes information from three generations of relatives, including children, brothers and sisters, parents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents, and cousins. Why not start this Thanksgiving and give each other the gift of a family tree?