Know your family health history

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.

Did you know it’s also National Family History Day?

Each year since 2004, the Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving to be National Family History Day. Over the holiday or at other times when families gather, the Surgeon General encourages Americans to talk about, and to write down, the health problems that seem to run in their family. Learning about their family’s health history may help ensure a longer, healthier future together.

As a nurse, I have taken hundreds of patient histories and I am always surprised by how little most people know about the health of their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. “Well, he died of something, but I can’t remember what it was.” or “I think maybe she had cancer—or maybe it was appendicitis.”

It’s very helpful if you can provide your health care provider with a comprehensive family health history.

Many common conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia and osteoporosis (among others) have a genetic link. By looking at your family tree you can see patterns in the types of diseases, the ages of onset of disease, and  the ages/causes of death among your family members.

That knowledge can help your doctor personalize your health care.

The US Surgeon General’s office has a great online tool, My Family Health Portrait, to help you put together a family health history tree.

Share the information with other family members (who might have information of their own to share), and then pass your family health history on to your children.

We make the most effective decisions about our health care when we have as much information as possible.

Genetic testing is available for some diseases, but it’s not affordable for many.

Your family health history is free.

Sláinte and Happy Thanksgiving!

Frugal Nurse

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