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David Morgan
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Take Time During the Holidays to Learn Your Family Health History

November 22, 2019 - Public Relations - Blog

The Thanksgiving and Christmas season is here. There’s shopping to do, huge meals to prepare and one often overlooked must-do: talking.

The holiday season offers many opportunities for your family to share everything from a meal to your family health history.

Did you know since 2004, the U.S. Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving to be National Family Health History Day? Thanksgiving and Christmas are ideal times to talk about, and to write down, the health problems that seem to run in their family.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, health care professionals have known for a long time that common diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes and rare diseases such as hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia can run in families.

You’ve probably already seen this in your own family: if your grandparents had high blood pressure, it is not unusual for your parents to have high blood pressure. It also means it can happen to you too.

Tracking major illnesses suffered by your parents, grandparents, and other blood relatives can help your doctor predict your health risks and take action to keep you and your family healthy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer the following tips on how to collect your family health history:

  • Talk to your family. Write down the names of blood relatives you need to include in your history. The most important relatives to include in your family health history are your parents, brothers and sisters, and your children. Next, you may want to talk to grandparents, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews, and half-brothers and half-sisters.
  • Ask questions. To find out about your risk for chronic diseases, ask your relatives about which of these diseases they have had and when they were diagnosed. Questions can include:
    • Do you have any chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes, or health conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol
    • Have you had any other serious diseases, such as cancer or stroke?
    • How old were you when each of these diseases was diagnosed?
    • What is our family's ancestry – what country did we come from?
    • For relatives who have died, be sure to ask about cause and age of death.
  • Record the information. Write this information down and be sure to update it from time to time.
  • Share family health history information with your doctor and other family members. If you are concerned about diseases common in your family, talk to your doctor at your next visit. A doctor can evaluate all the factors, including family health history that may affect your risk of some diseases, and can recommend ways to reduce that risk.