Thanksgiving is National Family History Day: Serve up Your Family Health History for a Longer Future Together
Thanksgiving has long been considered the unofficial start of the U.S. holiday season. But did you know it’s also recognized each year as National Family History Day? Not only is it a great day to count your blessings and make memories with loved ones; it’s also an opportune time to discuss your roots — particularly your family health history.
Did your mother or sister have diabetes? Was your grandfather diagnosed with colon cancer before age 50? Has a family member recently undergone genetic testing and discovered they carry a rare gene mutation? Health knowledge is power, and knowing what you can do to help prevent or actively treat conditions in the early stages can make a huge difference in your family’s well-being.
Because history can repeat itself
You know that curly hair and blue eyes run in the family, but did you know there are inherited conditions that can be passed down? These include:
- Some cancers
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia
- Risk of stroke
There are some key features that may increase your risk of disease, including certain combinations of diseases within a family, conditions that occur at an earlier than expected age or the same illness in more than one close relative. And even though you can’t change your genes, you can make lifestyle changes — healthy diet, regular exercise, smoking cessation — that may ultimately help you live a longer life.
Starting the conversation
The health of your closest blood relatives may influence your health the most. From parents and grandparents to siblings and aunts and uncles, make sure everyone’s in on this important discussion about the aging process.
- Ask questions. You might think you know about all the health conditions that have affected your family, but you can always learn more when you ask. Find out what conditions they may have had, when they were diagnosed and their symptoms. Also, gather information about your family’s ancestry, what countries or regions your ancestors lived in, official causes of death and how old they were.
- Record and update. Keep a journal of your family’s health details. As you discuss health statuses each year, you can fill in the blanks and update the information you’ve amassed. Free online tools like My Family Health Portrait can help organize your family health history and enable easy sharing with your doctor and family members.
- Keep everyone informed. If you’re concerned about an ailment that runs in your family, bring it up at your next physical. Share what you know to help your physician decide if screening tests may be beneficial. If you are diagnosed with a medical condition or have undergone genetic testing, don’t leave your family in the dark. Keep the flow of information going so everyone can stay in in the know.
Living your best life now
Happy, healthy holidays from the team at Reverse Mortgage Funding! If you or a loved one are approaching retirement and want to research the benefits of a reverse mortgage as a retirement planning tool, we're here to help.
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