LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - Relatives share more than green eyes or blond hair. Chronic illnesses and other health problems also tend to run in families. Because of this, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is encouraging potentially lifesaving conversations this Thanksgiving as part of National Family History Day.
“Family members share many of the same genes, lifestyles and environments. If one generation of a family has high blood pressure, it is not unusual for the next generation to have high blood pressure,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for MDHHS. “Thanksgiving is a time when families gather to share food, conversations and stories, providing an important opportunity to discuss one’s family health history. Knowing your history can create a healthier future.”
Family health history is a medical history about a person’s living and deceased relatives, and should include background about a person’s ethnicity. Using this information, health care providers can evaluate the risks for many disorders and chronic adult onset conditions like hereditary breast, ovarian and colorectal cancers.
Common diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes can run in families. In Michigan, approximately one in 10 women has a significant family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer. Family members share genes, environment, lifestyles and behaviors, the combination of which can determine the risk of common diseases.
Thanksgiving is also a good time to make sure your family is protected from the flu and other vaccine-preventable diseases. By staying up to date on vaccinations, you’re protecting everyone around your dinner table, including those who may be vulnerable like infants who are too young to be immunized as well as older people and people with certain chronic health conditions who are more susceptible to complications from diseases.
Take time to learn your family's health history and then be sure to share this information with your health care provider. Based on your family health history, your health care provider will be able to evaluate potential health risks and recommend appropriate screening or treatment.
A variety of materials and tools are available online to help you ask the right questions and collect information about your family’s health including:
• , which can help guide the conversation.
• The Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait tool, which can help individuals organize, print and share family history information with a physician.
• The American Cancer Society’s genetics and cancer website.
• Get the facts about vaccines and protecting your family at Ivaccinate.org.