Thanksgiving is National Family History Day

Keeping Track of Family Health History

Today while you’re digesting turkey or washing the Thanksgiving dinner dishes, take time to talk about your family’s health history.  Steven K. Galson, M.D., M.P.H., the acting Surgeon General, has declared Thanksgiving 2008 the fifth annual National Family History Day.

Families are encouraged to share health information to identify diseases that might be inherited or lifestyles that may contribute to medical problems.  Family histories can lead to a discussion with your doctor about tests you may need or changes you should make to prevent cancer and other diseases.

My Family Health History, a tool developed by the Surgeon General, can help you make a drawing of your family tree and a chart of your family’s health history.  They both can be printed out and shared with others in your family and with your doctor.

Dr. Galston points out,

Talking about and sharing your own family health history is something you can do right now in order to gain an understanding of your health and the health of family members. It’s a starting point for taking fuller charge of your own health future. Tracing the illnesses your grandparents, parents, and additional blood relatives have suffered from can help your health care provider predict diseases and disorders from which you could be at risk.

About 20 percent of colorectal cancer has a family connection. Knowing if there is a history of colorectal polyps or cancer in a close relative, in more than one relative, or in two or more generations is important to decide on a personal prevention strategy.  People who were diagnosed under the age of 60 are especially important to note.

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