Your family health history: knowing is half the battle

In 2013, Angelina Jolie published a powerful op-ed in The New York Times about how her mother’s battle with ovarian cancer prompted Jolie to test herself for the BRCA1 gene, which greatly increases a person’s risk of breast cancer or ovarian cancer. The results of the test were positive, so she elected to undergo a mastectomy – a decision which couldn’t have been easy, but ultimately reduced her risk of breast cancer from 85 percent to less than five percent.

This is a perfect demonstration of what a powerful tool your family health history can be.

Knowing and keeping track of your family history will help you create a complete picture of the factors that might impact your health – and sharing this important background can help your doctor determine whether you, and future generations of your family, may be at risk for certain diseases. 

Information like major medical conditions, age of onset and cause of death can make all the difference in planning your own health path. Having this information for immediate family is a huge help, but it’s important to gather as much information as possible from second- and third-degree relatives, too. This can include:

·     Grandparents

·     Aunts and uncles

·     Nieces, nephews and grandchildren

·     First cousins

Armed with this information, your doctors can recommend lifestyle changes, like diet and exercise, or, as in Angelina Jolie’s case, prescribe early screening tests. 

To help compile your family history, the CDC suggests you ask a lot of questions and look at medical records and death certificates. It is also beneficial to discuss health information at family gatherings, especially when several generations converge. 

Knowing your family health history can help you collaborate with your doctors and take control of your well-being. So, get the family together and ask those questions! 

With Nano, you can add your history details to your Nano profile, share them directly with your doctors and receive personalized recommendations to maximize your unique wellness. To get on the Nano app waitlist, visit