BY SUSAN SIMPSON Published: November 27, 2008
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You know that Uncle Don likes his turkey without gravy, and Grandma Ann puts nuts in the cranberry sauce.

But do you know if either of them has suffered a stroke, lost a parent to cancer or takes insulin shots for diabetes?

aDoctors say family gatherings are the perfect time to ask those questions and compile a family medical history.

Tracing the illnesses suffered by your parents, grandparents, and other blood relatives can help your doctor predict the disorders to which you may be at risk and take action to keep you and your family healthy.

"There’s almost no disease that doesn’t have a genetic component,” said Dr. John J. Mulvihill, a medical geneticist at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

"Some people are fatalistic about genetics, but I’m here to say there’s plenty to do about breaking the burden that cancer would be on a family,” he said.

Family History Day

Acting Surgeon General Steven Galson has declared Thanksgiving 2008 to be the fifth annual National Family History Day.


AT A GLANCE

Compiling your medical history

Make a list of blood relatives. Include your parents, siblings, children, grandparents, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews.

Questions to ask


• Do you have any chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes?


• Have you had any other serious illnesses, such as cancer or stroke?


• How old were you when you developed these illnesses?


• Have you or your partner had any difficulties with pregnancies, such as miscarriages?


• What medications do you take?


• What about illnesses of deceased relatives? How old were they when they died? What caused their deaths?

Source: U.S. surgeon general

ONLINE

To compile your family history online, go to www.family history.hhs.gov

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