Health: The New Family Tree

The holidays are a perfect time to gather your family's medical history

I had two routine checkups last week, and both the eye doctor and the dentist asked me to update my health history for their records. Their requests made sense. Health-care providers should know what problems their patients have had and what medications they're taking to be on the lookout for potential trouble or complications.

On each history, however, the section labeled FAMILY HEALTH HISTORY gave me pause. Few diseases are purely genetic, but plenty have genetic components. If my father suffered from elevated LDL, or bad cholesterol, my doctor should know that, because I'm probably at higher risk. If my mother...