Knowing your health risks often starts with knowing your family’s health history.
Yet it can be awkward to survey your loved ones about their personal health backgrounds or battles.
Longtime television personality and health advocate Joan Lunden spoke to Fox News Digital about why the holidays may be the best time of year to start this kind of conversation — and how to do so with grace.
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A breast cancer survivor, Lunden describes herself as a “huge advocate” for knowing her family’s health history.
“It’s important to understand your health risks,” she said.
Knowing one’s family health history, however, goes beyond immediate family members.
In addition to checking in with parents and grandparents or knowing their health stories, it’s equally important to check in with aunts, uncles, and other relatives who may have significant health problems.
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“If someone in your family has had breast cancer, you need to know at what age the cancer was diagnosed,” Lunden said.
“And you have to start your mammograms 10 years earlier [to that],
Lunden noted that sometimes it takes “a little effort” to pry such personal information out of relatives, especially since there is still a generation of people who want to keep their chronic illnesses under wraps. .
National Family Health History Day falls on Thanksgiving this year — November 24, 2022 — so it might be a good time for family members to put it on the table, he suggested.
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“It’s incredibly important for them to give you this information,” Lunden said.
“Pull them aside,” she said. “Get that little intimate moment with your relatives and really important information to protect yourself.”
Lunden’s eldest daughter, Jamie Hayes, joined in and said it’s important for people to be “comfortable having uncomfortable conversations”.
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During holiday times, Hayes suggests asking relatives for the gift of time — to sit down and share medical records and insights that could potentially be life-saving for others.
“What if the gift you ask for this holiday season was one hour of your time?” he said. “What could be a greater gift than this?”
Lunden believes the greatest gift an aging relative can give others in their family is their health history—as well as revelations and insights into what the world was like when they were young.
“These are the memories that are so important,” Lunden said.
“What could be a greater gift than this?”
“Ask, ‘How was your courtship?’ ‘What was I like as a little kid?'”
“Ask them some of these questions while they still can answer you, while they still have their cognitive abilities,” he said.
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Once the conversation starts, Lunden suggests people try to weave in questions about the health background of family members.
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“They would be willing to come in with that kind of medical history,” she said.
Based in New York, Joan Lunden is an award-winning journalist, best-selling author, and visiting professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.