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NIHSeniorHealth Site Offers Tips on Creating a Family Health History

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Bethesda, Md., Wed., July 21, 2010 — At your next family reunion or gathering, consider discussing a different type of family tree-the family health history. Find out how to collect, organize and use information about your family's health at Creating a Family Health History, the newest topic on the NIHSeniorHealth website. NIHSeniorHealth is a health and wellness website designed especially for older adults from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM), both part of the National Institutes of Health.

Older family members are uniquely positioned to help create a family health history. "Older adults are more likely to know about the health conditions of previous generations," said Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A. "I like to think of the family health history as an heirloom that can help current and future generations live longer, healthier lives."

The topic on NIHSeniorHealth includes My Family Health Portrait (, an online tool developed by National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and the Surgeon General's Office as a part of the Family History Initiative. The tool can help users pull together information about their own family health history. The topic also includes information about disease risk, the role of genetics and ways to promote the health of family members.

Knowing what diseases run in the family is important for you, your children and grandchildren. "A family health history, especially as one ages, can be used by health care providers to assess individual health risks and employ prevention strategies to avoid a variety of health conditions, from cardiovascular disease to cancer," said Eric D. Green, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), which developed the topic for NIHSeniorHealth. "I encourage all Americans to take advantage of family gatherings this summer to make health history a topic of conversation. This information can save lives."

Older Americans are increasingly turning to the Internet for health information. In fact, more than 70 percent of online seniors look for health and medical information when they access the Web. NIHSeniorHealth (, which is based on the latest research on cognition and aging, features short, easy-to-read segments of information that can be accessed in a number of formats, including various large-print type sizes, open-captioned videos and an audio version. Additional topics coming soon to the website include alcohol use among older adults, long-term care and anxiety disorders.

The NHGRI supports the development of resources and technology that will accelerate genome research and its application to human health. Additional information about NHGRI can be found at its website,

The NLM is the world's largest library of the health sciences and collects, organizes and makes available biomedical science information to scientists, health professionals and the public. For more information about the NLM, visit the website at

The NIA leads the federal effort supporting and conducting research on aging and the medical, social and behavioral issues of older people. For more information on research and aging, go to

The Office of the Surgeon General, under the direction of the Surgeon General, oversees the operations of the 6,500-member Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. For more information, visit the website at

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit


Stephanie Dailey, NIA

Kathy Cravedi, NLM

Geoffrey Spencer, NHGRI

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Last Reviewed: March 12, 2012