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Thanksgiving Day is also Family Health History Day

Health MattersCLEVELAND (WGGB) — One of the things that makes thanksgiving day so special is spending time with family. But the surgeon general hopes that between dinner and football, we share a little history; our health history.

Today is the 10th annual U.S. Family Health History Day. Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Kathryn Teng says understanding your family’s health history can help you predict your risk for health problems. “The kind of information you want to ask is what kind of medical conditions they had,” Dr. Teng explains, “but specifically you want to focus on certain disease types. So, cancers are a big one. Heart disease and stroke.”

Rare diseases, along with common ones, can run in the family. Things like high blood pressure, cancer, and diabetes are prime examples. If someone in your immediate family develops one of these conditions, your risk goes up significantly compared to someone without that family history.

“This information is not deterministic it’s probabilistic and so you can make some lifestyle changes” says Dr. Teng, “There are things you can do to control your risk to some extent.”

Thanksgiving Day turns out to be a good day to review your family’s health history because everyone is together. Dr. Teng says after collecting the information, the next step is to share it with your doctor, who can help you develop a personalized health plan.

“You really want to share that with your physician, especially your primary care physician because that’s the person who’s essentially your health coach. That’s the person who is going to help you develop those preventive care plans and to help you meet your health goals,” Dr. Teng said.

The surgeon general provides a web-based tool to help you put together your family’s health history portrait.
You can find it at familyhistory.hhs.gov.

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