Make a New Family Tradition this Holiday Season: Talk about Your Health

Starting at the end of November, the holiday season begins. And you know what that means: more time with family!

Holidays are known for bringing everyone together, enjoying delicious food, classic games, and family traditions. This year, Healthy Me PA proposes that you and your family adopt a new tradition during the holiday season: Talking about your health.

While everyone is gathered together, it’s the perfect time to ask questions about your family medical history, sometimes called your medical family tree. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees, and encourages us to develop more compete pictures of our health by using family gatherings as a time to talk about health history.

Knowing your family’s medical history can help give you insight about certain medical conditions and diseases in your family, which provides insight about patterns that might impact your own health. Ask your parents and grandparents about their medical history, and about the medical history of relatives who may have passed away.  

The CDC has great information about this important topic, including:

  • What exactly a family health history is
  • How to collect information to create one
  • Why it’s so important for your health and that of your children

The CDC stresses that knowing and acting on your family health history is an important information for your family doctor. With your family health history, your doctor will have a more complete picture of your health and your risk factors for disease. Together you can work on ways to reduce that risk.

You can even use the Surgeon General’s web-based tool called “My Family Health Portrait” to keep track of the information you collect and share it with your doctor.

Not only is it important to have a good understanding of your family medical tree for your own health, but for your children or future children’s health, as well. Take notes, and share this information with your doctor at your next visit.

According to Mayo Clinic, your doctor can use your family medical history to:

  • Identify your risk of certain diseases
  • Recommend behavior changes (diet, lifestyle) to reduce the risk
  • Recommend medications or treatments to reduce the risk
  • Identify any relevant diagnostic tests and, if appropriate, determine the type and frequency of screening tests
  • Identify other family members who may be at-risk of developing a certain disease

While you are discussing your family medical history, it could be an opportune time to ask your family members about their wishes if a crisis or accident happened. It’s difficult to think about the worse-case-scenario for a loved one, but it’s important to know what they would want if something happened, and for them to know what you would want as well.

For tips on how to transition to this topic of conversation, here is a conversation starter kit that will help everyone in your family get a shared understanding about what matters most at the end of life.

Sometimes talking about topics like these can be difficult. And while they are uncomfortable to bring up, they are important. Along with the fun festivities of the holidays, having these discussions about your health and the health of family members is a great way to show how much you really do care.