Nov-14_Health-History_HYR-Blog-ImageryHappy early Thanksgiving to everyone! I hope everyone enjoys some wonderful food and time with family and friends over the holiday. And in between the football and the pumpkin pie, I hope you make some time to talk about your health.

In 2004, the U.S. Surgeon General declared Thanksgiving Day to be Family Health History Day. The goal was to encourage people to talk with their family members about their health in order to create a family health portrait. A health portrait is a detailed health history of you and your family members.

Many health conditions run in families. This is true of more common conditions, like high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. And it’s also true of more rare conditions, like hemophilia and cystic fibrosis.

The reason is that you and your family members share similar genes. You may also share similar behaviors, have similar lifestyles, and live in similar environments. All of these factors play a role in your health. This makes your family a key source of health information.

Having a discussion about health with your family can help you learn which health conditions you may be at an increased risk of developing. For instance, your family health portrait may reveal that you have a high risk of developing heart disease. This is crucial information for you and your doctor to know.

While you can’t change your genes, there are often steps you can take to reduce your risk.

  • Behavior change. Suppose diabetes runs in your family. There are many healthy habits you can adopt that can lower your risk of developing diabetes. For instance, you can eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise. Making these behavior changes may help lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Preventive tests and screenings. Preventive tests and screenings can also play a role in your health. They may help catch early signs of certain health conditions. If you have a high risk of developing colorectal cancer, your doctor may recommend early screenings. Catching diseases early can mean better health in the long run.

To help you get started, visit My Family Health Portrait at https://familyhistory.hhs.gov/. This web-based tool will walk you through the steps needed to create your family health portrait. It allows you to save information, share it with other family members, and even print out a copy to show your doctor. You can also make updates as needed.

So this Thanksgiving, as you are gathered with your family, spend some time making a family health portrait. It is a great tool that can aid your health!