Booster Shots

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A bit of family medical history with that turkey and gravy?

November 25, 2009 |  1:52 pm

Is your Thanksgiving feast marred by awkward silences, backbiting comments or, worst of all, sports talk?

Your surgeon general, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, prescribes the cure for these common holiday afflictions: why not take the opportunity presented by the family gathering to gorge on some of the clinical details of your family's medical history?

The resulting conversation will not only enliven any holiday table. It'll remind everyone that the grim reaper may be hiding in the gravy, that the heartburn they're about to experience might not be so benign, and that in addition to inflicting psychological wounds upon their children, parents bequeath a propensity to certain diseases as well.

Now there's no script for getting this conversation started. But here are a few possible icebreakers:

--I'm interested in understanding my family medical history better. But first, how do I know I'm actually related to you?

--Was Uncle Tommy always like that, or did some neurological disease ravage his brain?

--Why does Uncle Bill's frozen hand look like it's clutching a beer bottle? Could it be alcoholism?

--Was Aunt Zelda born male, or is that facial hair the result of hormone imbalance?

--Your face is very red. Are you angry I'm asking these questions, or do you suffer from dangerously high blood pressure?

    As you can see, there's no wrong way to jog memories and tap the flow of colorful family stories. And if you want to write down the health information you collect along the way, that might come in handy someday as well. You can create a "Family Health Portrait" by checking out this site.

 -- Melissa Healy