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Go Ask Mom

Duke Medicine: Thanksgiving a perfect time to share family health history

Posted November 1, 2010

It’s well documented that many medical conditions have a strong genetic component. From cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer to mental health conditions, blood-clotting disorders, and cystic fibrosis, a number of diseases can run in families.

The good news is that by creating a record of your family’s health conditions, you can help medical professionals better understand -- and possibly reduce -- the risk that you and your relatives will develop them, too.

This Thanksgiving -- or any occasion that brings relatives together -- take the opportunity to discuss and document your family’s medical history. After all, Thanksgiving is also National Family History Day, as declared by the U.S. Surgeon General in 2004.

To underscore the value of the family medical history as a risk-assessment tool, the Surgeon General’s office recently rolled out an updated, more user-friendly version of the online tool My Family Health Portrait.

For more tips on how to start the conversation with your relatives and resources to help you record your family health history, check out Duke Medicine’s Does It Run in the Family? guides by clicking here.

Whether your family documents its health history on paper or online, you and your relatives will be taking a proactive step toward keeping healthy.

By sharing your history with your health care providers, you will give them valuable information that may help them make better decisions about your care.

At Duke Medicine, for example, clinicians work to help each patient reduce the odds of disease and improve outcomes by considering his or her unique needs and risks -- including those identified by family history.

A growing array of customized therapies, risk assessment tests, and prevention programs is also offered to provide personalized care for patients with cancer, heart disease, and a range of other conditions.

To learn more about what Duke offers and about creating a family health history, read the full article on DukeHealth.org.

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