Health Encyclopedia

Family History

Family History

Having a family history means that a person has one or more blood relatives with a certain health problem. A doctor can look at a person's family history to get some idea of the person's risk for that health problem.

Blood relatives include relatives who are alive and those who have died. They may be:

  • First-degree relatives (parents, sisters, brothers, and children).
  • Second-degree relatives (aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and grandparents).
  • Third-degree relatives (first cousins).

Some family histories are stronger than others. How strong a family history is depends on:

  • How closely related a person is to the relatives with the health problem.
  • How many relatives had or have the health problem.

Last Revised: April 6, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology

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