Learn Your Family’s Health History

The fall and winter months provide many reasons to get together with your loved ones. The extended family gathering around the dinner table presents a great opportunity to reconnect and turn relationships into strong, eternal ties. After a few glasses of wine, grandpa is retelling tales of saving all of Europe through his heroism in World War II, a story further embellished each year. Everyone is laughing and smiling, but part of the reason we all cherish these moments is we, unfortunately, never know how many are left. While you’re gathered together this year, it’s important to really start learning your family’s health history.

Passing down family health history can be as important as sharing that heirloom recipe your great grandmother shared with your grandmother. Many health conditions run in the family, so knowing the health history can help you or your loved ones take the right steps to stay well and get tested if you or they are at risk. Sharing a health history means having a conversation about your health conditions or those experienced by another family member. These conversations can transform a simple update about a loved one’s wellbeing into a piece of prevention.

Sharing Your Health History is Important

Though marked with stories and laughter, family reunions are also a perfect time to talk about important matters that affect the health of your family members. As the number of those with common ailments, such as obesity, heart disease and cancer, continues to rise, other major conditions should not be overlooked.

Five Tips For Starting the Conversation

Talking about health history at family reunions can be challenging. Having a strategy for difficult conversations can help guide the discussion and make it a meaningful and productive experience. Here are some tips for getting a one-on-one conversation started at your next family reunion:

  1. Ask permission to have the conversation and try to choose a convenient time and comfortable environment. Look for a quiet, private place that is free from distractions.
  2. Acknowledge that it is not always easy to face personal health problems. Try to be supportive and listen to their concerns.
  3. Include personal stories in your health discussion. Try sharing your story on how you manage diabetes or high blood pressure to help put them at ease.
  4. Offer to go with family members to their health care provider and encourage them to bring information about kidney disease, diabetes and high blood pressure to appointments.
  5. Follow up with family members in ways that work for them. Some relatives may prefer a phone call to an email or text message.

Being proactive in getting these seemingly uncomfortable conversations started is a great first step to prevention. Learning what health risks to watch out for early will give you a greater advantage to stopping any serious risks that may be lurking in your family’s medical history.

By Edward Rifkin

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