Holiday conversation topics are something to consider as you prepare for time with family and friends.
Gathering together should be enjoyable and enriching. So, if you want to steer clear of hot topics like politics, but go beyond the small talk, try asking about the family health histories of those you love. Sound weird? It doesn’t have to be; it can actually be an engaging topic. Everyone has a body after all.
Start: Get People Talking with Questions About Family History
There’s no need to jump into Aunt Enid’s complete surgical history. You can learn a lot about family culture, and possible biological connections, with some friendly questions. A few good starter questions get people talking and sharing stories.
Where were you born, and where did you grow up? The responses you get can tell you a lot about environmental factors. For instance, if your relative grew up in a sunny climate he or she probably had more sun exposure. That’s good for bone health, but might put him at higher risk for skin cancer.
What did you eat growing up? Learning this can help you gain some insight about food and nutrition culture in your family.
When you were a kid, what was your favorite thing to play? You might learn about some predispositions and ways of thinking.
Go Deeper: Delve Into Family History with Focused Health Questions
The topic of health tends to be universally interesting. As the conversation progresses, there may be an opportunity to discuss health-related topics of particular interest to you.
Arthritis can often be traced through families. If your grandparents, parents, and their siblings lived with arthritis, there is greater likelihood that you will develop it. If you can, find out which type of arthritis your family members have. You may not be able to prevent getting it yourself. There might be some measures you can take to prolong good joint health and manage symptoms before they become too uncomfortable.
Feet type can also be a family thing. Do you have a high arch? Flat feet? You can learn a lot about keeping your feet healthy by talking with your relatives. Even those who might not be related probably have some experiences with podiatry-related health.
Pregnancy experiences can link family members. If multiple women in your family have similar back problems related to pregnancy it would be good to know. If there is a history of C-sections, or problems with child birth you might want to know that too. Be careful and mindful as this can be a delicate topic. You may want to ask family members for one-on-one conversations, and connect after the holiday.
Beyond Orthopedic-Related Health Questions
Heart health is often linked through genetics and biology. High cholesterol and high blood pressure levels often run in families. It’s important to get a good sense of how many family members have heart problems. Today there are a number of ways to treat heart health issues. From lifestyle changes to medicine, to preventative procedures, proactive heart care can prolong your life.
Severe and persistent mental health issues affect 20 percent of us. Some issues tend to run in families. This includes substance use disorders, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and more. Simply being aware of family history can help you identify your own behavioral health needs and / or support a family member when he or she is especially vulnerable.
Dementia & Alzheimer’s disease are not completely understood, but there do seem to be genetic connections. Knowing who in your family lived with dementia, at what age they were diagnosed, and any details of the diagnosis can help you.
Expand Your Family Health History Understanding
While you can learn a lot from DNA tests, your family members might give you some data for free.
Ethnic backgrounds sometimes affect your disease risk. Different backgrounds come with different risks, so learn yours. Then, talk with your family doctor about any increased risk categories that you should be aware of.
Age matters when it comes to disease history. Our healthcare system uses common thresholds, like age markers, for certain disease testing. So, if a relative developed a disease at an early age, it is helpful to know because it could mean you need testing earlier than the standard, recommended age.
Mutations are a topic that gets everyone talking. It’s possible that you have some genetic mutations. Ask around. Maybe someone doesn’t absorb certain vitamins easily, or maybe the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are present in your lineage. If you suspect you have a genetic mutation based on conversations with your family, you should talk with your family physician about it. Together, you can determine if testing is a good idea.
Enjoy Holiday Gatherings by Learning Together
Getting together to celebrate the holidays should be great fun. It is our hope that talking about health with your loved ones results in greater connection and shared knowledge.
All of us at Puget Sound Orthopaedics wish you and your family very happy holidays.