November Is Missouri Family Health History Month

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Family Health History

November is Missouri Family Health History Month, and Missourians are being encouraged to record their family's health information when they gather during the holiday season.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services recommends that families document diseases and causes of death affecting at least three generations.

"Family gatherings are a good opportunity to catch up on family news and information, including health issues," said Jane Drummond, director of the state health department. "Mapping your family's medical history and creating a medical family tree can help you identify some health risks you could face in the years ahead and help you plan for them."

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Family history is considered one of the most important risk factors for a number of health problems including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and certain psychiatric disorders.

In 2004, Thanksgiving Day was declared the first annual National Family History Day by then U.S. Surgeon General Carmona. The event is held annually to encourage Americans to use their family gatherings as a time to collect important health history information that can benefit all family members.

Drummond said such information can help health care providers better assess a patient's risk of disease and prescribe appropriate preventive measures or courses of treatment. Family health histories should be provided to all health care providers to be retained as a permanent part of a patient's medical file, Drummond added.

In addition to genetic characteristics, family members also share environments, lifestyles and personal habits. All of these factors can impact a person's health, and knowing the risk for certain diseases can provide motivation to change unhealthy behaviors.

A video, "How to Complete a Family Health History," developed by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and a "Family Health History" guide can be viewed at www.dhss.mo.gov.

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