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Sharing More Than a Meal

By Amanda Murray, MD - Dothan Pediatric Clinic

Fall is in the air, and with the seasonal change comes the anticipation of the holiday seasons—more specifically, Thanksgiving, which is one of my personal favorites. I not only anticipate eating my fill of so many delicious foods, but I also look forward to the time spent gathering with my family and sharing a meal and conversation together.

Thanksgiving Day has been designated as another national holiday as well – National Family History Day.

Knowing your family health history is an important way to protect your health. Many diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, can be inherited. Knowing what illnesses run in your close blood relatives can help you and your doctor decide your risk and necessary screening to prevent and identify disease before it is evident, in some cases.

Collecting your family health history is an important first step. Gather the names of close relatives on both sides of your family – parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews – and start the conversation.

A complete record should include three generations of relatives. Record what medical conditions they have or had, including what ages they were first diagnosed.

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Find out the causes and ages of death for relatives who have passed. Some medical information is sensitive and having open conversation about medical history may be uncomfortable for some family members.

COVID-19 has had an effect on holiday gatherings for families, so take advantage of more intimate family gatherings, and start these conversations with your most immediate family members first.

Find a place to record the health history where family members will find it both easy to access and routinely update. Something as simple as a shared Google document, where designated family members can update their history annually or as changes arise, is a good place to start. The U.S. Surgeon General has also created a free web-based tool called My Family Health Portrait, where information can be saved and updated over time.

Collecting your family’s health history is only the first step. Then you must act!

While you cannot change your existing family health history, you may be able to take steps to change unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, lack of exercise, and an unhealthy diet that may contribute to the development and progression of diseases for which you may be at a higher risk.

Begin sharing the information about your family health history with your doctor during your annual wellness exam or at your next visit, and discuss available screening and prevention to keep you and your family healthy!

Amanda Murray
Author: Amanda Murray

Dr. Amanda J. Murray was born in Dothan, Alabama and raised in Chipley, Florida. She graduated cum laude from the University of Florida, Gainesville, with a Bachelor of Health Science degree in 2010 and graduated from Florida State University, Tallahassee, with her Master of Biomedical Science degree in 2011. Dr. Murray earned her Doctor of Medicine degree from Florida State University College of Medicine, Tallahassee, 2015. In 2018, she completed a three-year Pediatric Residency program at Levine Children’s Hospital, Charlotte, North Carolina and joined Dothan Pediatric Clinic in September 2018. She is a proud member of the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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Sharing More Than a Meal

by Amanda Murray time to read: 3 min