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Thanksgiving Traditions: Turkey, Football, and Family Health History

This coming week, many families across the country will gather to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.  While family traditions often center traditional turkey dinners and watching football games, consider starting a new tradition to collect and document your family’s health history.  The U.S. Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving to be National Family History Day, encouraging Americans to share a meal and the family health history.  This information can help your doctor decide which tests and screenings are recommended to help you know your health risks.  Because family members share genes, behaviors, lifestyles, and environments, they may share a common risk for developing certain health problems.  Family history can be especially valuable in helping a doctor make a diagnosis if a child shows signs of a particular disease or disorder.

The updated Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait tool (available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian), can help you and your family to collect and organize family health history information and allows you to share this information easily with your doctor or health care provider.  The most important relatives with whom to discuss family health history are parents, brothers and sisters, and children.  Then, if possible, talk to grandparents, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews, and step-brothers and step-sisters.

More information on collecting family health history is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at: and

MedlinePlus and NIHSeniorHealth also have Topics Pages on Family Health History.  MedlinePlus – and NIHSeniorHealth –

The National Library of Medicine’s Genetics Home Reference has lots of information on genetic conditions and the genes or chromosomes that are linked to these conditions.

Don’t be shy!  Get to know your Family Health History better – for the benefit of everyone in your family.

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