Did you know that apart from Thanksgiving each year, it is National Family Health History Day? Since 2004, the U.S Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving Day as National Family Health History Day. This move was to encourage families to discuss their health histories on a day when everyone catches up.
Why Is National Family Health History Day Important?
While having fun and eating too much good food is essential to Thanksgiving, also remember to spend some time educating each other about your family health history.
Love is essential as you choose your life partner, but it’s equally important to learn about their family health history. Some hereditary conditions can cause trouble later in life when having children. Knowing and discussing these issues is a way of loving and caring for your present and future family members’ health.
Knowing Your Family Health History
It’s not just your looks and temperament that you may have inherited from your family. Your family may have even passed along the risk for many hereditary conditions like cancer, diabetes, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, depression, and dementia.
An Example: Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer is a cancer of the colon or rectum. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women and the second most common cause of cancer deaths when men and women are combined. It’s expected to cause about 53,200 deaths during 2020 in the United States. (American Cancer Society, 2020)
The statistic above is an alarming one. Knowing in advance your predisposition for this cancer, which has a high rate for cure if found early, is the key to early detection.
Here is why it is essential to know your family history:
To Understand the Risks
Knowing your family’s health history could help you predict and reduce the risks of hereditary illnesses. The family health history plays a crucial role in knowing if any diseases could be lying dormant in your genes.
To Stall Certain Diseases
Only know when your family health history will be able to take the right preemptive steps. If there is a history of cancer in the family, you could opt for early screening tests like colonoscopies and mammograms. These screening tests detect the disease in its early stages and increase the chances of successful treatment. There are even genetic, noninvasive tests you can take to see if a certain type of cancer is in your genes.
Early detection allows you to treat a condition before it reaches the life-threatening stage. Your doctor may even recommend frequent screening after knowing about your family’s health history.
To Know if the Disease Is Genetic or Behavioral
Some conditions like Down Syndrome or cystic fibrosis are entirely genetic. On the other hand, conditions like type 2 diabetes have many genetic and behavioral components. While there are many ways to get a disease, certain behaviors could cause or worsen the condition.
To Protect Your Children
We all want our children to be happy and healthy. A health history records any health conditions that you, your partner, or families have had. Knowing this information could also help parents plan a family’s health future.
It’s also a good idea to document your family’s medical history so your children can have it for their future use.
A Hard Discussion for Some
While it’s vital to discuss your family health history, remember that not everyone will be eager to share this information. It might be painful for some, or they may have forgotten their health details. Be particularly sensitive when discussing the death of a close one and always respect your family’s wishes.
Do remember to share this information with your doctor, so they can screen you early for any conditions you’re susceptible to and suggest lifestyle changes as needed.
Remember that your health is a valuable asset, and you must take good care of it. Knowing your family’s medical history is an excellent beginning in being proactive about your health.
American Cancer Society. (2020). Colorectal Cancer Statistics: How Common Is Colorectal Cancer? Retrieved October 24, 2020, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/about/key-statistics.html