Getting the Conversation Started: 3 Ways to Learn About Your Family History on National Family History Day

Dr. Lynn Jones

The turkey is stuffed, and the table is set to celebrate one of the year's most anticipated holidays. But while you’re passing food around the Thanksgiving table, doctors urge you to also remember to pass along valuable family information that could save loved ones’ lives.

Taking a few moments to discuss your family’s medical history could alert the most precious people in the world to you of potential life-changing conditions, from breast cancer and heart disease to diabetes and stroke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you might be more likely to get one of these conditions if family members had the same issue.

We understand that starting such a conversation could be difficult, especially at a celebration, but here are some tips for collecting your family’s health history on Thanksgiving, which the U.S. Surgeon General has designated as National Family History Day.

Talk to your family

You showcase your family’s genetic history every day, whether it’s the brown eyes you got from your mother or the dimples you inherited from your father. However, if you look beyond appearances and ask your close relatives about conditions they’ve had and when they were diagnosed, it could help everyone at the table be proactive and take steps to reduce the risk of getting the disease. Additionally, the CDC offers several resources to help you start the conversation.

Ask questions

Asking questions can help you learn about your risk for chronic conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Questions can include:

  • Do you have any autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus?

  • Have you had any other serious conditions, such as cancer or stroke? What type of cancer?

  • What were the causes and ages of death for relatives who have died?

Share your family history with your doctor and other families members

Once you know the diseases common within your family, you can take the necessary steps to lower your risk of getting them. You can tell your doctor what you know about the common conditions in your family. Even if you don’t know the full family history, the information could help the doctor decide which screening tests you need and when those tests should start. And letting family members know about your own medical conditions will allow them to take preventive measures for themselves.

National Family History Day is a great opportunity to start taking these steps, which can

 help ensure a longer and healthier future for your family and for generations to come. You can learn more about making decisions to improve your wellness by visiting

2022-11-24 15:15:00