A family history lesson

By • Published: November 9th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

In a way, Thanksgiving is a day made for sharing.

Sharing the marshmallow-covered yams…

Sharing the pumpkin pie drizzled with whipped cream…

Sharing stories about who really broke the vase in the living room back in 1985…

As you and your family gather to give thanks and gobble a little turkey this year, think about sharing one other thing: your family health history.

Thanksgiving has another, albeit lesser known, moniker… National Family Health History Day. The brainchild of the U.S. Surgeon General, National Family Health History Day was designed to get people talking about their family’s health on a day when they are most apt to be together.

Why? Because many diseases and medical conditions run in families, it’s important for you to know about your mom’s diabetes or your Aunt Irma’s battle with heart disease. It’s not like inheriting your Dad’s ginger hair or your mom’s chubby thighs. It would all be a lot easier if we had “high risk for blood clotting disorder” on our foreheads when we are born.

Understanding your family’s health history is the only way to predict what sorts of risks you face.

There are a few conditions that are more likely than others to filter down through the family tree. You’re more likely to develop conditions like asthma, heart disease or diabetes if a relative also has it.

It’s important to know if anyone in your family has a genetic disease like Tay-Sachs disease or muscular dystrophy, too. Although you may not have any symptoms of these conditions yourself, you could be a carrier and pass them along to your own children.

So, as you pass the cranberry sauce, pull out a piece of paper and talk health. This little history lesson may just make you and your loved ones a lot healthier.