Did you know Thanksgiving Day is also National Family Health History Day? After you’ve cleared the table and done the dishes, take time to talk about your family’s health.
A family health history is a list of your family members and their health information, and it can help you and your doctors understand your risk factors.
Why is a Family Health History Important?
Understanding your family’s health history is a good first step in protecting your own health. If your relatives have health problems, you could be at greater risk of having the same conditions.
Besides genes, your family shares other things that can affect health — often including the foods you eat, your environment and your activity levels.
Which Relatives Should Be Included?
Your family health history should list blood relatives. This includes:
- Aunts and Uncles
- Nieces and Nephews
What’s Included in a Medical History?
Write down information about conditions like high blood pressure, cancer, high cholesterol and other ailments that can run in families. You should also add the approximate year — or decade — each person was born, their ethnic backgrounds and the side of the family each person is on.
It also helps to note any major medical events such as a stroke or surgery. For anyone who’s deceased, include the cause of death and age at death.
Who Needs the Information?
When your family medical history is complete, share it with all your doctors. Be sure to make copies so you can use it every time you fill out forms for a new health care provider. Give copies to your relatives, too, so they can share it with their doctors.
What if Your History Includes Diabetes or Heart Disease?
If your family medical history includes an illness like diabetes or heart disease, that doesn’t mean you’ll develop the same condition. It does mean you can change your habits to lower your risks. Exercising more, quitting smoking, eating healthier foods and talking to your doctor can help, even if you have a family history of chronic disease.
If no one in your family has significant medical conditions, that’s great news! But preventive care, such as annual physicals and recommended screenings, is still important for maintaining good health.
This year, before tuning into the football game, talk to your relatives and fill out your family’s health history. Do it next year, too! National Family Health History Day is the perfect time to update your medical history each year.