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Giving Thanks for Family

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Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to connect with family, eat delicious homeade food, and give thanks. It's also a good time to listen closely to your relatives' stories about their health—Uncle Joe's blood sugar woes are more important than you may think. Families often share genes, environment, and lifestyles that can influence health. If someone in your family has a disease such as diabetes, stroke, or cancer, you may be at risk for it, too.

Knowing what types of health problems run in your family is essential for two reasons:

1. You can work with your doctor to determine what screening tests you may need and how often you should get them. For instance, if your dad and sister both had colorectal cancer, your doctor may recommend that you get screened for the disease at a younger age or more frequently than other people. Screening tests can often find diseases early, when treatment is typically most effective.

2. You can take steps to stay healthy. Some diseases such as diabetes or heart disease can often be prevented or delayed by doing things like eating a healthy diet, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Create a record

Ideally, you should know the health histories of close blood relatives on both sides of your family. This includes your parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews.

You'll want to find out what conditions each relative has been diagnosed with and when. And for relatives who have died, learn the causes of death and their ages. It's OK if some details are missing—just gather as much information as you can.

Once you've created a family health history, print out copies for your doctor and your relatives. It's something your family will be grateful for all year long.

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