Wednesday, November 21, 2012

National Family Health History Day

health care history

Being aware of your family's health history can increase your
chances of enjoying many more holidays and
making family memories in the future.

National Family Health History Day was first started in 2004. My family and I have never even heard of this day before. So when I decided to do some research on it I found it to be a very important topic that all Americans should know about. 

For the past eight years during Thanksgiving, the Surgeon General has raised awareness of the importance of knowing your family's health history. Why? To educate all of us about our health history so we can live longer and healthier lives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updates information about illnesses and genetics. They are a great resource to use when checking risk factors in your family.

Many illnesses, like cancer, heart disease and diabetes run in families. Knowing what runs in your family may save your life one day. There are also rare diseases like hemophilia, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia that may have occurred in your family in the past, and you may not even know about them. Knowing your family's health history can help you and your doctor to assess your risk for certain diseases. That is why it is so important for us to be able to give our doctors a complete family health history. It may keep you and your family members healthier in the future. Together you can use your family history of illness to lessen risk factors that may be in your control.

Keeping Your Family Healthy

For most parents, keeping our family healthy is our number one concern. One step is having yearly physicals. Many family health care services use this annual exam to update information about your health and that of your family. Have you discussed any recent health issues your relatives might be having? Are you aware of any diseases that might run in your family? It's important to be able to report any changes to your doctor.

My Family Health Portrait is an online tool that can help you get started. By doing this you are staying one step ahead and being cautious about what might lay ahead for you and your family. Even though not all illnesses are carried down from one generation to the next, it is always good to have information about what illnesses might run in your family.

What is Family?

When you check your family's health history you may need to know what is considered family and how many branches in your family tree you need to look at. This doesn't have to be complicated. The main family members to look at are your closest ones. You want to know the history of both biological parents and grandparents on both sides. You will also look at any biological siblings, uncles, aunts, and your own children. If your health care provider has all the history on those family members he or she should be able to assess your health risks and help you know what to look out for. Your health care history is kind of like your fingerprint. Each is different and it has to be looked at from every angle.

This Thanksgiving, when you and your family are together, might be a great opportunity to ask some questions about family and health. Also talk to your family about the importance of knowing the family's health history so you can all live long lives and celebrate many more holidays together.

 Marci Psalmonds
Contributing Writer

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