Friendly reminder to call pops and wish him a Happy Father's Day this Sunday! And while you've got him on the line -- after you get through hearing about his latest political beef or how disappointed he is that the Celtics lost -- take five minutes to quiz him about his health history.
If you're anything like me, you've always paid more attention to your mom's medical history than dad's (this is partly because my dad is SO anti-doctor -- I'm constantly lecturing him). My dad taught me a lot about the New York Mets and hard work and sorting the nice guys from the jerks, but family health? Not so much. Thing is, because I'm a 50/50 split of my parents' genetic makeups, his health hiccups are just as likely to be passed on to me.
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So, I asked a few great docs for a list of questions every daughter should ask her dad. Follow their talking points and jot down his answers. You'll be surprised how much you learn.
1. Were any of your blood relatives obese? Girls inherit body type and metabolism from their father's family just as much as their mother's, according to Tara Brass, M.D., medical director of Columbus Park Collaborative, a private center for the treatment of eating disorders. In fact, one gene abnormality -- called Prader Willi Syndrome -- is inherited from fathers and is characterized by an abnormally increased appetite.
2. What was your weight right before adolescence? Before males hit their teenage growth spurt, which enables them to eat hundreds of extra calories a day without gaining poundage (if only....!), their weight is a more accurate reflection of their eating patterns and metabolism -- both of which are passed along to you.
3. What type of sports did you excel at? Women are much more successful at maintaining a healthy weight when they opt for a form of exercise that comes relatively naturally to them, "If dad had fantastic hand-eye coordination or was known for his stamina, it gives you an idea about which types of sports might be best for your body type," says Brass.
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4. Was anyone on your side of the family diagnosed with breast cancer? Most women assume this is a trait that is handed down from mom, but actually it's 50 percent from mom and 50 percent from dad, according to Raul Seballos, M.D., a preventative medicine specialist with Cleveland Clinic's Executive Health Program. If there is a family history, inform your doctor, who will probably opt to screen you a bit early. Dr. Seballos recommends subtracting 5 to 10 years from the age of your relative's diagnosis to determine when you should start screening (this goes for colon cancer as well).
5. Did any women in your family have heart disease before they turned 50, or did any of the men have a heart attack before they turned 60? According to Seballos, these are significant indicators that you could very well develop heart disease. Inform your doc and start getting your cholesterol checked at age 20.
6. Growing up, were any of your relatives constantly looped? This may seem like a probing question, but you shouldn't be afraid to ask. If his brother or aunt or other close family member may have been an alcoholic, you should be especially cognizant of this in your 20s and 30s -- when social pressures increase and you're establishing habits and attitudes about booze.
7. Did mom get the baby blues? It's often hard for women to notice (or admit) that they have symptoms of postpartum depression -- even though it's estimated that nearly half of women are affected on some level. So, ask your dad if mom had any of the following symptoms post-childbirth: teariness, irritability, insomnia, feelings or guilt or worthlessness, trouble concentrating, fear of leaving the house, or suicidal thoughts. If she had two or more of these symptoms, make your husband aware of the family history and the symptoms so he can get you help ASAP, if necessary.
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8. When was the last time you saw a doctor? OK, this question is for the benefit of his health, not yours. While women are likely to go to the doc annually because they have a yearly OBGYN appointment, physicals are generally not on a man's program, according to Dr. Seballos. Tell him how important it is that he stays healthy -- for you and his grandchildren (oh, yes, pull on those heartstrings!)
How much do you know about your dad's health history?
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