Believe it or not, a quick discussion with your mom could be the fastest way to an instant health upgrade. So reach for the telephone and discover your health heritage today...
1. How's your blood pressure?
Just because you've boycotted traditional sweets for biscotti and gelato doesn't mean you're completely clear from cardiovascular trouble. "Women have a tenfold greater risk of death from coronary arterial disease as compared to breast cancer," says Dr Vivek Gupta, senior cardiologist at Delhi's Indraprastha Apollo hospital. According to experts at medicinenet.com, approximately 30 percent of cases of essential hypertension are attributed to genetic factors, and people with one or both parents suffering from high blood pressure are twice as likely to have it passed onto them. Since high blood pressure usually creeps in sans any symptoms, caution is critical.
Fix it fast
If anyone in your immediate family has suffered from heart related problems before the age of 65, get your GP to check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If the figure is higher than the ideal 120/80 mmHG, request for further tests as this might be an indication of a problem. Alter your lifestyle to prevent this: according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), increasing your physical activity, choosing foods that are lower in sodium, quitting the tobacco stick, and controlling your intake of alcohol, are all steps in the right direction.
2. Has anyone in our family Had breast cancer?
As one of the most common amongst Indian women, it is said that one in 22 women will suffer from breast cancer in their lifetime. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the US National Institutes of Health, both males and females can inherit and transmit an 'autosomal dominant cancer genetic predisposition'. Which means that your chances of getting an altered cancer gene is as high as 50 percent, since it can travel down from either side of the family tree. If there is a history of breast cancer, it's important to sit up and track down those cells.
Fix it fast
While there are various reasons for breast cancer, experts say that most cases of hereditary breast cancer have been associated with mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BReast CAncer gene 1 and 2), the good genes that keep your breast cells functioning normally and prevent the growth of any cancer cells. Get yourself a Gail or Claus test done to check whether your genes are in top shape. If any aberration is noticed, there are various new methods that can control, lower, and treat breast cancer, reducing the risk for disease. To assess your personal risk, take an online test at nbocc.org that will calculate your chances of developing it, taking into account your age and medical history. Make a daily routine of examining your breast to get familiar with the look and feel. If you detect any changes, ask your doc for a thorough check-up.
3. Is it me, or have you shrunk?
Is your mother seeming shorter than you remember her to be? That may be because of osteoporosis or decrease in bone density, frequently seen in women past menopause. If you've inherited a small frame or light bones from your mother, keep a look out—a fragile skeletal structure means an increased risk for fractured bones, particularly in the hip, spine, and wrist.
Fix it fast
According to experts, family conditions such as a small frame and bone structure, collagen mutations, and estrogen or Vitamin D receptors can contribute to hereditary osteoporosis. Up bone strength by quitting smoking, curtailing alcohol, and doing light exercises. Get enough Vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium, and opt for an oily fish dish such as salmon the next time you're out.
4. Do you think your glass is half-empty?
While we all have bad days and go through tough periods that seem almost too difficult to manage, no one likes to admit they get depressed. But it's an important question because evidence indicates depression runs in families, paticularly bipolar disorder.
Fix it fast
If someone in your family suffers from depression, it's not a foregone conclusion that you're heading for the blues too, says Cosmo GP Dr Penny Adams. It's more likely due to learning behaviours and responses to certain situations during your lifetime, rather than having a specific depression gene passed on to you, with the possible exception of bipolar disorder. To avoid low moods, learn to recognise negative thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations. Involve yourself in physical activity to get those feel-good hormones flowing. If you feel you need counselling, don't hesitate to contact a doctor for help and advice.
5. Were you regular?
Right from her monthly cycle to pms-ing and bowel movements, you can figure out a lot about how your body will be over time just by tuning into how your mothers bodily functions are. If, however, her symptoms are acute such as extreme pain on both sides of the pelvis, lower back and legs, make sure you rule out having endometriosis, and can lead to infertility depending on the severity of it.
Fix it fast
If you're worried, especially if it turns out that your mum had endometriosis or fertility problems, take an appointment with your gynaecologist so she may pinpoint any problems before they become worse or difficult to treat. Statistics and research has revealed that an estimated 30-40 percent women with endometriosis may not be able to have children. Luckily, experts atendometriosis.org say that it can be cured with the proper hormonal treatment designed to temper oestrogen production in the body. Physiotherapy sessions and surgery are also options that can be considered, and you could even go for homeopathy or try the Candida diet that has shown signs of improvement in the syndrome. Another thing to watch out for is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which usually causes delayed periods and possible infertility, and is passable by 50 percent of a chance.
6. Do you remember my first day at school?
If mum completely blanks out at this one, it may not be that she doesn't really love you but that her memory may be weakening. If she has always had noticeable memory issues, it could be cause of concern for both you and her. A family history of Alzheimer's could mean you're more at risk of developing it.
Fix it fast
According to Dr Thomas D Bird on ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, "Early-onset familial Alzheimer disease (EOFAD) is diagnosed in families that have more than one member with AD (usually multiple affected persons in more than one generation) in which the age of onset is consistently before age 60 and often before 55 years." So unless that's the case, the risk isn't serious, but you should still sharpen your mind by keeping it active with mental games like Sudoku or chess. Try and de-clutter your mind and reduce stress to keep it healthy and fresh.
7. How much do you drink?
We mean glasses of water! Are you often thirsty and need to excuse yourself for a trip to the loo every few minutes? You may think you're being healthy and flushing out toxins, but these two are actually the biggest indicators of Type 2 Diabetes, which means that the cells in the muscles, liver and fat do not use insulin properly. According to statistics, approximately 38 percent of siblings and one-third of children whose parents had Type 2 diabetes will develop diabetes or abnormal glucose metabolism at some point. Obesity can also add risk, because it leads to increased insulin resistance that can develop into Type 2.
Fix it fast
If you're at high risk, losing weight can help. Do lots of physical activity, don't drink a lot, and stop smoking. Diets high in low-fat dairy could also lower risks. Look for symptoms, such as slow-healing cuts, leg cramps, and extreme tiredness.
8. When did you go through menopause?
Research shows that daughters go through menopause at about the same time and in more or less the same way their mothers did. Ask her approximately how many years did her pre-menopause last and what warning signs to looking out for—depression, migraines, insomnia, irregular bleeding, hot flushes, weight gain—so you know what to expect.
Fix it fast
Finding out when your mom's fertility began to drop doesn't mean you'll be infertile then, too. It might just take longer to conceive. Take charge by asking your doc for a saliva test on the 21st day of your cycle to check for any hormonal imbalance. An imbalance is the underlying cause for symptoms of early menopause, say pros.
9. Did you ever do the cabbage soup diet?
Like most mothers, yours may claim to be happy eating every green, seasonal, healthy veggie in the market (sneaky trick to get you eating them too!) but she may not have been such a good eater all her life. Ask your mum if she ever faced any eating disorders—bingeing, anorexia nervosa or bulimia. Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh believe that there are specific genes linked to core traits associated with eating disorders, and that girls with a mother or sister who suffered from anorexia nervosa were 12 times more likely to develop it. And it's not just genes that play a part. "Women are strongly influenced by their mother's behaviour, so it's crucial to be aware of this and acknowledge that this doesn't have to be the norm," says Melinda Hutchings, author of Why Can't I look The Way I Want?
Fix it fast
While most would assume an eating disorder is likely to develop during the teenage or early adult years, children as young as five can be affected. So, fad diets aside, if your mom has suffered from anorexia, it's important to know as much about her triggers as possible. Try to distance yourself from habits that acted as triggers and take on different values.
10. Have you ever had a kidney stone?
You could be more prone to that shooting pain in the side of your stomach if it runs in the family. According to kidney.niddk.nih.gov, Classical Distal RTA (Renal Tubular Acidosis) and its additional conditions may be inherited, which could lead to an abnormal calcium deposit build up in the kidney leading to the formation of a stone.
Fix it fast
The best way to keep painful kidney stones at bay is by flushing your body with plenty of water to get rid of any small crystals, stones, or calcium deposits that may be forming. Cut down on food with excessive protein, especially meat and beans, reduce your salt intake, reduce processed food and eat three to four portions of fruit a day. You could also consider alternate therapy such as homeopathy to 'dissolve the stones'.