Illustration: Richard Mia
What to Do if You Can't Talk to Your Family
1. Follow your paper trail.
Birth certificates will help you piece together your family tree. Death certificates—which list cause of death, age at death, and may even include chronic medical conditions—will help you gather clues for possible genetic links. If you don't have these documents, track them down at your local or state health department.
2. Check adoption agency records.
If you were adopted, go to childwelfare.gov/nfcad, where you can find state-by-state adoption registry information. Then contact the organization in the state where you were adopted to get help locating your file, which may include nonidentifying health information about your birth parents.
3. Consider your ethnicity.
Can't get any family records? Ask your doctor about diseases that may be linked with your ethnic background. For example, African-Americans are 1.8 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than Caucasians. Native Hawaiians also have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, and if you're of Asian ancestry, you may be at high risk for developing osteoporosis.
Next: 10 simple habits that could help you live to 100