In 2004, the Surgeon General declared Thanksgiving Day to be National Family History Day. Over the holiday or at other times when families gather, the Surgeon General has encouraged Americans to talk about, and to write down, the health problems that seem to run in their family. Learning about your family's health history may help ensure a longer, healthier future together.
A survey found that 96% of Americans believe that knowing their family history is important. Yet, the same survey found that only one-third of Americans have ever tried to gather and write down their family's health history.
So, what are you waiting for? Take some time between the parade, the football games, the turkey dinner and the pumpkin pie to learn more about your family secrets – your continued good health could depend on it.
For some of us old enough to remember, a Saturday Night Live character many years ago played by Mike Meyers encouraged people to "Talk amongst yourselves." While Linda Richman (Meyers), the Coffee Talk host, was not specifically suggesting talking about your family health history, we'd like to suggest that for November, it should be.
You know you got your curly red hair from your grandfather and your blue eyes from your dad. These aren't the only things you may have inherited from your family, however. Many medical conditions, including heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, alcoholism and Alzheimer's disease have also been shown to be passed down through families.
A family medical history or medical family tree is a record of important medical information about your relatives, including illnesses and diseases.
Start a family health or medical history by talking with your close family members – parents, grandparents, children and siblings – as they provide the most important links to genetic risk.