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Thanksgiving Is National Family Health History Day

John Schall

CEO, Caregiver Action Network

There’s a saying that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. If we’re not careful, this can happen within families, too.

Family members share traits, traditions, stories, and so much more. They also share a common health history. Many families share histories of mental health issues, cancer, diabetes, and countless other health concerns. We’re all part of our families, and we get the good along with the bad.

Knowing your family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, or any number of other conditions is an important step toward taking care of yourself, and providing the best care to your loved one. In many cases, unfortunately, the care you give to your loved one could be a glimpse at your own future — but that glimpse also gives you the opportunity to take steps now to prevent a similar fate.

Talking health

Thanksgiving doesn’t have to only be a time to be with family to enjoy a magnificent meal and count your blessings. Thanksgiving is National Family Health History Day. If you’ll be with family this year, you should use the opportunity to discuss your family’s shared health history. It’s a great way of looking at the past to plan for the future.

Few things happen in a bubble and chances are, whatever your loved one’s condition, if you look hard enough, there’s probably someone else in your family who dealt with the same issue at some point.

One of the most important things you can do to function effectively as a family caregiver is to keep a comprehensive file of information about the person you are caring for. A crucial part of that is knowing your loved one’s family medical history. A family medical history can help you take preventative steps now to avoid more serious issues down the road.

Your mother’s father died from heart disease? Make sure your mom has her blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly. Your dad and grandfather both had cancer? You may be at increased risk as well. For better or worse, your family history is part of who you are, and it’s an important part of knowing yourself.

Knowing your family medical history can be a huge benefit. With the great leaps forward in precision medicine and targeted therapies, the more we know, the better we can treat the condition.

So many conditions and diseases are passed from generation to generation, like unwanted family heirlooms. That’s why knowing your family medical history can be such an important tool for maintaining your current health, and for your future. Forewarned is forearmed.

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