Did you know that the U.S. Surgeon General declared Thanksgiving to be National Family History Day? Thanksgiving, or other times when families get together, is a good time to talk about and write down health problems that seem to run in your family. Knowing your family’s health history and sharing that information with your doctor can help predict conditions for which you may be at risk so you can consider actions to keep you and your family healthy. Knowing your family’s health history is particularly important when it comes to lupus.
Research has shown that heredity does seem to play a role a role in lupus. About 10% of lupus patients have a first-degree relative (sister, daughter, son, mother) or a second-degree relative (aunt, uncle, first cousin) with lupus. But this also means that 90% of lupus patients do not have relatives with lupus.
Why is a Family Health History Helpful?
So if we don’t completely understand how and why lupus is passed down through families why should you create a family health history? It is important to know what other health conditions you might be at risk for. If conditions like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or stroke are common in your family, you might be at risk. If your physician knows your family health history for certain conditions, it might impact conditions you are screened for and your treatment. You may decide to make lifestyle changes to lower your risk.
Compiling Your Family Health History
How do I collect my family health history? There are many tools that can help Start by asking close family members (parents and siblings) about their health, then talk to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Ask them what health problems they have had, how old they were when the problem started or they were diagnosed, and their lifestyle habits. You can also ask family members if they know about the health of relatives who are no longer living.
Here are a few of the many free tools available on the internet that you can use to create your family health history. Many are available for non-English speakers.
- The Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait at www.hhs.gov/familyhistory
- The Utah Department of Health’s Family History Toolkit at www.health.utah.gov/genomics
- Genetic Alliance’s Does it run in the family? at www.doesitruninthefamily.org
Start a new family tradition this Thanksgiving and give your family a lasting gift that may save someone’s life, your family health history. And don’t forget to share it with your doctor.
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