The Healthiest Thanksgiving Talk
Here’s a conversation starter you can use whether you’re gathered virtually or in person: asking about your family’s health history. Thanksgiving Day is also National Family Health History Day, so it’s the perfect time to bring it up. Even if you do all the good-for-you things to stay on top of your health, having a close family member with certain conditions (including heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, or colorectal, breast, or ovarian cancer) can raise your risk of developing them. “Learning about your family’s health arms you and your doctor with knowledge that can be used to unlock clues about potential risks— the more you can learn and share, the more puzzle pieces they have to see the full picture of your health,” says Mikhail Varshavski, D.O., a family medicine physician in New Jersey. This is all more important than ever right now, since certain underlying conditions can make COVID-19 a particularly dangerous risk. After you give thanks, do two easy tasks:
CREATE A FAMILY HEALTH TREE
Write down the names of close relatives on both sides of the family: parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. Find time to talk to each about conditions they have or had and their age of diagnosis. Even if you think you know everything in your lineage, these conversations can reveal details that may be super important.
SHARE WHAT YOU LEARN
Once you’ve gathered information, keep it easily accessible. The CDC’s free online tool, My Family Health Portrait (phgkb.cdc.gov/FHH), lets you organize your family health history and share it with your doctor and other family members who may benefit from it.