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How to Talk About Genetics and Family History

Information about your family's unique health can empower you to ask your providers about screening tests, healthier diets and possibly genetic testing.
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Group of female  friends laughing together after completing run at sunset
Group of female friends laughing together after completing run at sunset

While you're with your family this holiday, it's a golden opportunity to gather around and share stories, food and connect with one another. This is also the time to consider starting a new healthy holiday tradition by taking a few minutes to share your family's health history.

Information about your family's unique health can empower you to ask your providers about screening tests, healthier diets and possibly genetic testing.

Because these conversations may be overwhelming for some family members, there are some things you can do to help everyone feel more comfortable sharing information. Here are some tips:

Set the Expectation

• Pick a convenient time and stick to it
• Keep it short to prevent overwhelming people (30 - 60 minutes)
• Request people bring any relevant medical information they're comfortable sharing or photos
• Bring genetic testing results

Set the context

• Start off by thanking everyone for sharing
• Go first with your own concerns
• Ask people to share any of their concerns
• Offer to share information about any conditions that may affect other family members
• Offer to compile notes and send out

Sample script

"Thank you so much for taking the time away from the Egg Nog and Holiday cookies to talk about health. I'm hoping this helps all of us be healthier in the New Year and for a long time. As you know my mom has Alzheimers and had breast cancer a few years back. I wanted to share with all of you what her health care providers told us and the results of some testing. This is what we know and what we're doing to stay on top of these and other conditions..."

Remember, knowledge about your family health is power. Many people see that their relatives have health conditions and worry that they too may be affected, however, getting a better understanding of what you can do to reduce your own risks is empowering and can help you and your family live healthier lives.