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Nov 02

Thanksgiving is National Family Health History Day

Posted on November 2, 2023 at 11:21 AM by Bridget Craker

Sharing a meal with loved ones is a wonderful way to create traditions and learn from one another - whether it be a nightly dinner or a holiday gathering with extended family. Thanksgiving will be here at the end of November, and with it comes National Family Health History Day. Sitting down for a Thanksgiving meal presents the perfect opportunity for families to give thanks but also to talk about an important topic – health. 

Diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and others can be inherited - meaning they can be passed from one generation to another. If your family member has a certain medical condition, that can mean that you are more likely to develop that same condition. Has your doctor ever asked you if there is a history of, for example, heart disease in your family? This is the reason why they ask. 

Knowing your family’s health history can help you and other family members stay healthy. With the knowledge of which diseases may run in your family, you can work with your doctor and take action to prevent those diseases. When certain diseases are caught early, there is better success in treating them. 

It may be difficult to start a conversation about family health history. You can start by asking broad, generalized questions about your family’s health, such as, “Do any diseases run in our family?” You can also explain to family members that you’re interested in learning more about your family’s health history for your health and the health of other relatives. 

Once you get the conversation going, it’s a good idea to jot down notes so that you can remember important information. Be sure to note who it is that has or had which diseases, at what age they were diagnosed, and what the cause of death was for certain family members. Additionally, during this conversation, you can bring up your family’s habits or other factors that may impact their health. 

If you have a medical condition such as heart disease or cancer, consider talking to your family members about your condition. If you’re one of the older members of your family, you might know more about diseases and health conditions and be able to share useful information about your diagnosis that could be helpful to your younger family members. Additionally, if you’ve had genetic testing done, consider sharing the results of your testing with relatives. 

Once you’ve learned about your family’s health history, it’s time to act. You cannot change your family health history, but you can alter some lifestyle habits and work with your doctor on the next steps that should be taken, such as early screening for certain diseases.   

There are resources to help you have conversations about your family’s health history online on the CDC and National Institute of Health’s websites. Good luck talking with your family about this important topic, and Happy Thanksgiving!