Family gatherings during the holidays are often spent eating or cooking together, exchanging stories and having a good time being together. When families live far apart from each other, the holidays can be a special time to reunite. With everyone gathered around, this can also be a good time to talk about health and family history. Talking about health with your family will help you to know and prepare for conditions that you may be at risk for, or open the door for support if you currently have a health condition.
For many, health is a delicate subject to talk about—especially with family. We decide not to talk about our health for fear of what others may think or because we rather not make our family worry. While it is uncomfortable to talk to your family about your health, informing your family can be the first step towards disease prevention and management. Diabetes, for example, is one of those health conditions that may run in the family. What you eat and how active you are can influence whether you develop diabetes. If someone in your family has diabetes, you may also have a higher risk of getting diabetes.
While you may not be able to change your family’s health history, you can start talking to your family about healthy changes you can make to delay or control diseases like diabetes. Here are a few ideas:
- Prepare healthy meals together. Try out new health recipes for the holiday. Do you need some ideas for healthy meals? Check out some of the healthy recipes we have on our website.
- Plan physical activities together. As a family you can play a sport, take an afternoon walk (post meal walks are great!) or go on an adventure. Being active as a family is a fun way to increase physical activity and to stay motivated to exercise regularly.
- Gain support to minimize stress and anxiety. Managing one’s condition often requires a lot of effort and can be overwhelming. Setting small goals and making changes as family provides encouragement and the strength to overcome the challenges of having a chronic disease.
So for the upcoming Thanksgiving celebration, or even at your next family meal, initiate a conversation about health. When talking to your children, you can use this chart provided by the American Heart Association to discuss and map out your family history.
The more you know about your family’s health, the better prepared you can be to create a healthy future.
Written by Bonnie Tse, with contributions from Dr. Ady Oster.
Bonnie Tse is part of the Health Education Department at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. She has a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Science from Hunter College. Dr. Oster is the section chief of internal medicine at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. He received his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and completed his residency training at Yale-New Haven Hospital and University of California at San Francisco. Dr. Oster is board-certified in internal medicine.