Celebrate National Family Health History Day This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is all about the gathering of family, and many times it involves family that usually isn't in the same place at the same time. It's the perfect time to get information that could improve, prolong, and even save your life.

It's important for you to know if your family health history includes diseases like cancer and diabetes, even if it's not a parent or sibling who had the disease. Although a family history of a disease does not guarantee you will get it, it should act as a motivator for you to take steps to lower your own chances. You can't change history, but you can improve your chances for a better health outcome in the future. Here's how:

Ask It

Ask family members about what conditions they have or had, and at what age they were diagnosed. Be sure to ask about chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes; health conditions like high cholesterol or high blood pressure; where your ancestors are from; and the causes and ages of death for those relatives who are no longer alive.

Write It

Keep a record of the information you get from your family. My Family Health Portrait is a free tool you can use to organize the information and share it with your family members and even your doctor.

Share It

Bring your doctor up to speed on your family's health history. This can help your doctor decide which screening tests you may need to take, and when to start them. This information can also help guide the personal health decisions your other family members need to make.

Use It

Gathering information about your family's health history is just the first step; acting on the information you have is the most important step. Use what you learn as motivation to change unhealthy behaviors like smoking and overeating, and to take a proactive approach as far as health screenings. These are especially important if you have a family history of:

  • Breast/Ovarian Cancer
  • Colon Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Osteoporosis

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at "Knowing is Not Enough --- Act on Your Family Health History" for more information.