DID YOU KNOW THAT THANKSGIVING IS ALSO NATIONAL FAMILY HEALTH HISTORY DAY?
Thanksgiving Day is not only a time of gathering with friends and family to eat a sumptuous meal and count blessings. It’s also National Family Health History Day on November 26th. Family health history is a record of the diseases and health conditions in your family. You and your family members share genes and also may have behaviors in common, such as exercise habits and what you like to eat. You may live in the same area and come into contact with similar things in the environment. Family history includes all of these factors, any of which can affect your health.
Even if you don’t have a parent or sibling with cancer or diabetes, you might be more likely to get a disease if other people in your family have or had any forms of diseases. Therefore, collecting your family health history is an important first step. Take time to talk to your family about their health histories this holiday season.
FAMILY HEALTH HISTORY DAY TIMELINE
1960 – The colonoscope was developed thanks to fiber optics and engineering advances, making it easier to see signs of cancer in the body.
1980 – Video chip technology was introduced for laparoscopy, providing a major progressive step in colorectal cancer surgery.
2004 – The Surgeon General declared Thanksgiving as Family Health History Day, reminding to assess health risks for illnesses known to run in families.
REASONS WHY FAMILIES NEED TO KNOW THEIR HEALTH HISTORY
If you have chronic conditions that run in your family, it’s important to discuss the family’s health history, especially if there were family members who died before the conditions became evident. The most common conditions that run in families are heart disease, diabetes, and cancer (including colon, stomach, endometrium, lung, bladder, breast, and skin) as well as high blood pressure.
HOW TO COLLECT YOUR FAMILY HEALTH HISTORY
- Write down the names of your close relatives from both sides of the family: parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. Talk to them about what conditions they have or had, and at what age the conditions were first diagnosed.
- To find out about your risk for chronic diseases, don’t hesitate to ask your relatives. Questions can include:
- Do you have any chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, or health conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
- Have you had any other serious diseases, such as cancer or stroke? What type of cancer?
- How old were you when each of these diseases or health conditions was diagnosed?
- What were the causes and ages of death for relatives who have passed?
- Record the information and update it whenever you learn new family health history information.
- Share family health history information with your doctor and other family members. If you are concerned about diseases that are common in your family, talk with your doctor.
HOW TO ACT ON YOUR FAMILY HEALTH HISTORY
You can’t change your genes, but you can change unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, not exercising or being active, and poor eating habits. You may have the most to gain from lifestyle changes and screening tests with a history of family diseases. In many cases, healthy living habits can reduce your risk for diseases that run in your family. Screening tests, such as blood sugar testing, mammograms, and colorectal cancer screening, help find early signs of disease. Finding disease early can often mean better health in the long run.
Family time is special during Thanksgiving simply because everyone comes together to share a meal and rehash old family stories. However, this Thanksgiving make sure to spend some time educating yourself and your loved ones. In between the stuffed turkey and pecan pies, have a serious discussion about your family health history. When it comes down to it, the most important thing to be grateful for is the continued healthiness of you and your loved ones.