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Create your family health portrait on Thanksgiving: National Family Health History Day

11/28/2014, 6 a.m.
Acting Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H. today declared this Thanksgiving day, November 27, as the eleventh annual Family ...
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Acting Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H. today declared this Thanksgiving day, November 27, as the eleventh annual Family Health History Day. Over the holiday or at other times when families gather, Americans are encouraged to talk about and keep a record of the health problems that seem to run in their families.

Ninety-six percent of Americans believe that knowing their family history is important. Yet, only one-third of Americans have ever tried to gather and write down their family's health history. The Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait tool is a free resource that helps people collect and privately share their family history information through a secured system.

“We are taking an important step in helping Americans identify opportunities for preventing serious disease and conditions,” said Lushniak. He added, “This year, I am pleased to announce updates to the technology behind the My Family Health Portrait tool that will make it easier for people to record their family health history information and to share it with their health care providers.”

This year, the My Family Health Portrait tool has three new features to offer:

Optional modules that help determine if an individual is at increased or average risk for colorectal cancer and diabetes in an easy format to share with health care professionals.

Mobile-friendly access so users can manage their family health history information wherever they are and whenever they want on their mobile devices such as tablets.

More ways for users to save and manage their family history information to personal digital storage sites that use secured information transfer methods.

By collecting health information from relatives, individuals and families are taking the first step towards preventing diseases or health conditions. Family history cannot be changed -- but sharing the history with health care providers can help to identify strategies to reduce risk for diseases like diabetes and heart disease in the future. Making healthy choices is important for everyone, but it is especially important for those at higher risk because of a family history of disease.

More information on the Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait is available at the Surgeon General’s My Family Health History Initiative webpage.

Most of us know that we can reduce our risk of disease by eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise, and not smoking. But did you know that your family history might be one of the strongest influences on your risk of developing Heart Disease, Stroke, Diabetes, or Cancer? Even though you cannot change your genetic makeup, knowing your family history can help you reduce your risk of developing health problems.

Family History and Your Risk of Disease

Family members share their genes, as well as their environment, lifestyles and habits. Everyone can recognize traits that run in their family, such as curly hair, dimples, leanness or athletic ability. Risks for diseases such as Asthma, Diabetes, Cancer, and Heart Disease also run in families.