National Family Health History Day always falls on Thanksgiving. This year during your family gathering, take the opportunity to share health details that could protect both you and your loved ones.
It probably seems like an odd choice of conversation; however, knowing one another’s health history can benefit every member of your family—now and for years to come.
Here's How to Document Your Family Health History
Start by writing down the names of close relatives on both sides of your family. Record the illnesses or health conditions they’ve had, including when they were diagnosed. It’s also helpful to mark down the names of relatives who have passed away, along with their age and cause of death.
The CDC recommends asking family members questions like the ones below to find out your risk for chronic illnesses:
- Do you have chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes, or health conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
- Have you had any other serious illnesses like cancer or stroke? What type of cancer?
- How old were you when your doctor diagnosed you with each of these diseases or health conditions? (If your relative doesn’t remember, it’s still helpful to know the approximate age.)
- What is your family’s ancestry? From what countries or regions did your ancestors come to the United States?
What you learn can help everyone in your family, so if some relatives aren’t sitting around the table with you this holiday, make sure to send the information to them too. Don’t forget to update the document as new health details emerge.
Once you have a clear picture of your family health history, you’ll have the tools you need to take action. Perhaps you’ll discover that heart disease runs in your family, which could prompt you to alter your diet, exercise more, and keep tabs on your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Or maybe you’ll learn you have a family history of early colorectal or breast cancer, prompting you to consider early screenings for those diseases. Whatever you find out, it can allow you and your physician to create the best possible plan to keep you healthy and well.
Cheers to your family’s health!
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