Thanksgiving Reminds of Family Health History’s Importance

Thanksgiving Day comes with those familiar health reminders: don’t cross-contaminate cooking utensils and surfaces, make sure your bird is cooked thoroughly, don’t overstuff yourself, refrigerate leftovers promptly, let someone else drive if you’ve had too much wine.

A less familiar reminder might be to use this annual gathering of relatives to talk about family health history.

Dr. Runjhun Misra
Dr. Runjhun Misra (Tina Encarnacion/ UConn Health Center Photo)

“There are many diseases that you could very well inherit, and one of the best ways to find out if you have a risk factor to develop that disease is if you have a strong family history of it,” says Dr. Runjhun Misra, a third-year primary care and internal medicine resident at the University of Connecticut Health Center.

In 2004, the U.S. Surgeon General declared National Family History Day would be recognized annually on Thanksgiving.

Misra tells WTIC NewsTalk 1080’s “At Home in Connecticut” program, the important facts to know include which family members had what disease, and at what age.

“You want to ask three generations back, so you want to go as far back as your grandparents,” Misra says.

A podcast of Misra’s interview with WTIC’s Bill Pearse is available at

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers My Family Health Portrait, a free web-based tool that helps create a family health history chart and a drawing of a family tree. The chart and the drawing can be printed and shared with family members and health care professionals.

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