Thanksgiving, the Perfect Time for Family (Health) History

Hello readers, and Happy Thanksgiving! I want to keep this week’s post brief so that we can all focus on eating turkey, being with loved ones, watching parades and dog shows, and then IMMEDIATELY transitioning into Christmas. 🎅

The holidays bring us close to family we may not see very often. Whether close or distant, there’s a good chance many of you will be seeing gene-sharing family members today. Here’s an invitation. Take the time to learn a little of your family history. Names, stories, personalities, and of course diseases they suffered and causes of death… wait what??

In the era of direct-to-consumer DNA testing, many people are shelling out $$$ to have their DNA analyzed for ancestry/heritage and health-affecting mutations. And I’m not here to say that’s a bad thing! I’ve done Ancestry DNA myself and others in my family have done 23 & Me, and the results can be fun to interact with. However, these tests can be expensive, inaccurate, and limited in scope, and if something clinically significant is discovered it will always need to be retested by a doctor or genetic counselor anyway. If you’re not feeling like shelling out $200 for that, I’ve got a better idea that is actionable on this family-centered holiday. Learn your family health history!

Image may contain: 10 people, including Christina Franco, Catherine Hotaling Cooper, Laura Cooper-Hastings, Zachary Hastings and Jr Cooper, people smiling, people standing, wedding and outdoor
My little homologous gene pool. How much do I even know about their history?

Family history / genealogy can be an enriching just as a hobby, as it connects you to your roots and grows your appreciation for your fore-bearers. It’s also critical to understanding how your life and health could turn out– and learning your family history is free!

Know what successes and challenges your living and deceased family members have gone through in their life, especially if they had a health problem (Don’t we all? Shout out to my thyroid). Not everyone will be comfortable discussing these topics in detail, and it’s okay to go slow and learn a little bit at a time. Keep especially good track of cancers and which organ was affected, cardiovascular problems and sudden death, inborn childhood diseases like Cystic Fibrosis, adult-onset neurological conditions like Huntington or Alzheimer’s, and even psychological issues like bipolar and schizophrenia. Note if these conditions have been seen in the most recent 4 generations of your family, and if they’ve come up your cousins or siblings of people on your direct tree.

It’s pretty likely a doctor will someday ask if you have a family history of any conditions, and it’s super helpful to know. They can advise genetic tests, or better yet, direct you to genetic counseling that will help you understand the genetic health of your family. There are so many reasons to get to know your family’s history, heritage, and genetic health. It alerts you to problems you could face, brings that awareness to other family members who could be affected, and allows you to take action if needed.

So, enjoy your turkey and your chats with family. Get to know their stories and get to know them. You might even save 100% off the Black Friday Sale on 23 & Me.

This week my third recommender put in her letter so my apps are official complete! It’s been a rough week otherwise, so I am very grateful she at least took that bit of stress off of me. Our dog Buddy is in pet ICU this week, dealing with a heart condition he came to us with. There’s a good chance it’s related to cocker spaniel breed genetics, is it time for a post about the myths and dangers of dog breeds, in his honor? Please send him your happy thoughts! (I’m sure he’d take some of your turkey as well. 😉)

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Our brave boy! We hope he can get out of the hospital today and come to spend Thanksgiving with us

-Laura Cooper-Hastings

 

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