Take a closer look – just how much do you resemble your mother? You may have been told that you have your mother’s eyes, her smile, her athletic ability or even her gift for gab. Of all the genes you inherited, only a few determine physical features. What about all the rest that determine health and overall wellness? For better or worse, we are our mothers’ daughters, and knowing a little bit more about your mom and your family medical history could prove to be a life-saver.
Almost all diseases have a genetic base. Some follow straight and clear-cut patterns of inheritance; these are known as single-gene disorders and include sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis. Others, known as multi-factorial disorders, do not follow clear patterns of inheritance and are acquired through a combination of genes and behavioral and lifestyle habits, which can be improved to reduce your risk. Multi-factorial disorders include the “biggies,” like breast and ovarian cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and diabetes.
Make getting healthier a project for you and your mother to work on together. Although you are not responsible for your mother’s health, you can commit to encouraging and motivating her to take positive action.
Know Your Inherited Risk
Just because a disease or disorder is common to your family, there is no guarantee you will get it too – just that you may be at a higher than normal risk. Here are two important first steps you can take:
- Review your family medical history together; remember to include children, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.
- Partner with your doctor to monitor your health and work on a plan to minimize the impact of your inherited risk for disease.
Lower Your Risk
Identify current lifestyle habits and rate your current physical and emotional health. Next, identify what you would like it to be. How can you bridge the gap? Commit to doing the things you already know you should do – but you don’t have to do all of them all at once; start with smaller goals and enjoy success before tackling more. Support each other via phone, the internet, or in person.
Both you and your mother have different strengths. Play into those strengths by assigning each of you an area of responsibility – see below for some ideas:
- One of you can come up with healthier versions of family favorites, like a baked crunchy chicken recipe instead of the fried version.
- The other can develop a walking plan, buy pedometers, and keep a log of steps.
- One of you can find music or podcasts to introduce calm moments into each day.
- If one of you smokes (or both of you do), promise each other to quit, see a doctor, join a support group and do whatever it takes!
Challenge each other and stay on track. Remind yourselves and each other of your goals and support each other through the chocolate cravings and lazy days! There is no better gift to give your mother this Mother’s Day than the gift of good health!