An Important Conversation for Thanksgiving Day

Food and health regularly collide on my blog, and today, Thanksgiving Day, is the granddaddy of all days when it comes to food. The majority of Americans have some, or all, of the day off from work to give thanks, get in some quality time with friends and family, and eat.

And eat and eat. And eat some more, then lumber over to a cushy seat to become immersed in TV and chatter. This one day of food and relaxation sets the tone for the rest of the holiday season, through the end of the year.

On this first of potentially several occasions during which you may be meeting up with your extended family before midnight on January 1, the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, has a request for you. Not to eat more healthy (though I’m sure she’d appreciate it), but to take this time to discuss health with your loved ones.

Today marks the eighth annual Family Health History Day. On the event, Dr. Benjamin said:

“An important first step in preventing illness and disability is learning about health conditions in our families that may put us at increased risk for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, Alzheimer’s Disease, mental illness and many others. Discussing health information with other members of your family can often uncover conditions and explanations for health problems which you never knew about, simply because no one ever asked.”

There is a link of the Surgeon General’s Web site to a tool called the My Family Health Portrait, which consists of a 20-minute questionnaire (available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian) that is used to generate a family health tree you can save to your computer. There is a FAQ sheet here with additional information about the Web tool, including information on how your information is kept secure.

The hope is that the information gathered by answering the questionnaire can be shared among family to enable everyone to make better lifestyle choices and be aware of the potential for health problems. The Surgeon General also recommends that people share the results with their health care providers to help them make more informed treatment decisions.

“On this Thanksgiving holiday, I hope you and your family will take a few minutes to create a family health portrait,” Dr. Benjamin said. “Learning your family’s health history is a valuable investment to make in your health and your family’s health.”

Consider taking a break from the other lively discussions going on in your host’s home to round up this important information to help your existing family and the generations to come.


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