When Thanksgiving comes around, we often focus on the “thanks.” Americans use the holiday as an opportunity to contemplate why they are blessed. But, because Thanksgiving is also National Family Health History Day, it’s important to also focus on the “giving” part of “Thanksgiving.”
When we think of giving we often think of giving gifts, time, or money. We sometimes think of bringing food or cheer to a friend in need. But we don’t often think about our family health histories. But we should. The Brem Foundation is here to help people celebrate Thanksgiving — by giving our families information about their health histories. If everyone shared their health histories on Thanksgiving, we would have a wealth of knowledge that could help with better care and longer lives.
1. You don’t have to talk about it with everyone. Not everyone feels comfortable talking about his or her health with everyone else. Try to find the people who feel closest to you and talk to them openly but thoughtfully about their health history. Then see if you can ask others who are close to people who may not feel comfortable talking with you about their health. If each person in the family talks to a few other people about their health histories, then everyone can put their stories together to fill in the whole picture without making anyone feel uncomfortable.
2. Genetic links to health conditions can be passed from either parent — even if these genetic links are to a disease that usually affects one or the other gender. This means that genetic mutations for breast and ovarian cancer can be passed from a father to his son — not just from a mother to a daughter.
3. Be specific. Asking someone to tell you everything about their health and the health of their family can seem daunting. Here are some key questions to keep in mind:
a. Have you, or any of your relatives, had serious diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or anxiety/depression?
b. Do you know about any risk factors for disease, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol?
c. At what age were family members were diagnosed with any diseases?
d. Did any of the diseases claim a family member’s life? If so, when?
4. Write it down! When you’re in the moment it may feel like you could never forget what you’re hearing — but you can. It is really important to write down what you learn — it could save your life!
5. Consider genetic testing. When you have a better picture of your health history, consider genetic testing for the best possible screening and prevention. Color and the Brem Foundation can help you down that road if you decide it is right for you and your family.