Mothering Sunday on March 19th is a timely and important reminder of what our mother means to us. Whether you are celebrating with your mum this year or remembering her, it would be a good idea to take a moment to reflect on what you could learn from her health journey as it may affect yours.
Some diseases carry an increased familial risk. This doesn’t mean if your mother had one of more of these that you will automatically be affected as well. But it’s worth taking extra precautions to prevent any disease that affected your mum and doing a bit more research to keep alert to any early warning symptoms that may present themselves.
A few of the common conditions that you may be more at risk of if your mother experienced them include:
- Breast / ovarian cancer
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
Risk factors related to some of these diseases are worth noting:
Risk of early menopause
An important one to establish is if your mum had an early menopause (before the age of 45) not due to surgery or medical treatment such as chemotherapy. Natural early menopause can run in families and is a risk factor for osteoporosis and heart disease, in particular. If your mum experienced this, be pro-active and speak to a doctor about how you can prepare for a similar experience and protect yourself against long-term health risks which may result from an early menopause.
Risk of osteoporosis
Osteoporosis can run in families so if your mum or a close relative has had a few fractures or been diagnosed, your risk will be higher than normal. The risk factors for osteoporosis are much better known today – including menopause, hysterectomy, low body weight, small frame, certain medications including cancer treatment. If you’ve experience any of these, make sure you have a Dexa scan and ensure you take bioactive collagen peptides, vitamin D and calcium daily to boost your bone health.
Risk of breast and ovarian cancers
It’s considered that between 5-10% of breast cancer cases and 10-15% of ovarian cancer cases are hereditary, resulting directly from gene mutations being passed from parent to child. The most common cause is an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Do check when/how your mum experienced her cancer and ask a doctor’s advice on whether you should be screened for any heightened risk.
Risk of gynaecological conditions
If your mum or a close female relative has experienced the gynaecological conditions of endometriosis and/or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you have a higher risk of having these. If you mum is in her 70s or older, she may not have had either of these specifically diagnosed as less was known 30/40 years ago. But if she had really painful or heavy periods or difficulty becoming pregnant, she may have had one or these conditions. So best to get things checked out if you’re affected by these or other unexplained symptoms.
Risk of depression
Mental ill health, including depression, can run in families – either due to nature, nurture or a combination of the two. If your mum – or dad – had or have depression, keep alert to your own feelings and take action quickly if you sense something isn’t quite right. Many women experience mood swings around their monthly cycle and, again, at menopause so keep that in mind as well. Mental health awareness is much higher today but remains a delicate topic among older people for whom it still carries a stigma. Tread carefully and, if she’s still struggling, don’t hesitate to help her access any therapy as it’s never too late to seek support.
Risk of high blood pressure
High blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and vascular dementia. It’s easily checked by a GP so don’t ignore the common symptoms of: blurry vision, chest pain, feeling dizzy, frequent headaches or being short of breath. If your mum has or had high blood pressure, it may be because she did not have access to the same health and nutrition information we have nowadays. Provided you have a healthy lifestyle, your risk may be less. But don’t be complacent: get things checked out.
Speak to your daughter, too
Needless to say, if you have an adult daughter, it’s worth setting time aside to speak to her about any health issues you experienced that may affect her. We live in an age where we can speak more frankly about our health – from menopause to mental health, cancer to chronic diseases. Don’t think you’re ‘protecting’ your daughter by keeping from her what affected you: forewarned is forearmed and giving her a head start on safeguarding her health is a loving thing to do.