Beginning in 2004, Thanksgiving was declared National Family Health History Day by the U.S. Surgeon General.  While gathering with family over the holidays, people are encouraged to discuss their health history — the record of diseases and health conditions in their family. This information is important because if you have a family member with a chronic disease, you may be more likely to develop that disease yourself. Knowing your health history can help you and your doctor make the best decisions about your health and wellness.

How to Collect Your Family Health History

Begin by determining which relatives to include in your history. The most important people to include are your parents, siblings and children. Other relatives you may want to talk to include your grandparents and/or aunts and uncles and their children.

Questions to Ask Your Family

Your family’s health history may help you find out your risk for certain chronic diseases. You can ask questions like:

  • Do you have any chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease? Do you have other conditions like high cholesterol or high blood pressure?
  • Have you ever had any serious diseases, like cancer or stroke?
  • When were you diagnosed with this condition/these conditions? How old were you?
  • What is our family’s ancestry?

Be sure to record this information somewhere you can easily access it and update it when necessary. The Surgeon General has a free web-based tool called “My Family Health Portrait.” Recording your information here will allow you to print your history to easily share with your healthcare provider.

What to Do with Your Family Health History

Take your family health history to your next doctor’s appointment. Sharing this information with your doctor can help him or her decide what screening tests you may need.

Have a Safe, Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving

COVID-19 has made it so holidays will look and feel a bit different for everyone this year. We hope that you find a way to connect with your family and friends to celebrate the holiday season.