She gave you your first haircut and your ostrich toes. Wanna know what else you got from your mom? Asking her these questions could clue you in to your possible future--and help you give unhealthy inherited risks the boot.
ASK HER: "Are you as tall now as you were at 21?"
If your mom has lost an inch or two since her sorority days, it could be a sign of osteoporosis or the less-severe osteopenia, says Isador H. Lieberman, M.D., a professor of surgery and an orthopedic and spinal surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Weston, Florida. And if she has osteoporosis, there's a 50 percent chance you'll develop it too. On the flip side, if your mom still has the frame of a 35-year-old, you're not as likely to be hobbling around with a hunchback or hip fractures later in life.
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Escape the parent trap To keep your skeleton well-steeled, get at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day from low-fat dairy and take a multi with vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium, Lieberman says. At the gym, hit the free weights along with the treadmill. Bones get stronger in response to force, and strength-training can target areas like the shoulders, spine, and wrists, he says.
If your mom has osteoporosis, ask your doctor about getting a bone-density scan. If it shows a skeleton that's Fabergé-fragile, you can toughen it up by guzzling even more dairy, ramping up your strength-training, and taking prescription meds. Think of your skeleton as a rock that's slowly being eroded: The harder and stronger you can make the stone, the better it will stand up over time.
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ASK HER: "Did you have a rough pregnancy?"
Your own version of Knocked Up won't necessarily play out like your mom's pregnancy, but certain complications do have a genetic link, says Orna Kolker, M.D., assistant clinical instructor of obstetrics and gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. Find out if mom had a C-section due to a narrow or unevenly aligned pelvis, she says. If you have her Fergie-thin hips, you could face a similar baby-won't-budge situation in the delivery room. You can also inherit a higher risk for blood-clotting disorders, gestational diabetes, and pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure and high protein levels in the urine). Even if Mom faced nothing worse than morning sickness, hearing about her experiences can reassure you that what you're going through, whether it's five-alarm heartburn or labor anxiety, is normal,Kolker says.
Escape the parent trap If your mom cops to any of the issues we've mentioned, let your ob-gyn know, especially if you're pregnant or plan to get there soon. "Your doctor can work with you to take steps to prevent complications," says Robert Atlas, M.D., chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "For example, in the case of pre-eclampsia, she may prescribe more fruits and veggies along with fetus-friendly exercise to lower your risk.
ASK HER: "How'd your last eye exam go?"
Um, yeah, you know she wears contacts. But "quiz her about whether she's ever been diagnosed with glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve) or macular degeneration (thinning of the retina)," says Mark Swan, O.D., M.Ed., a professor of optometry at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. "Both conditions run in families and often are severe before symptoms occur." That's dangerous, because if they're not discovered early, they can lead to vision damage and even blindness.
Escape the parent trap "If glaucoma or macular degeneration runs in your family, whether you light up can make the difference between getting them or not," Swan says. "Smoking reduces blood flow to the eye area, depletes levels of crucial antioxidants that keep eyes healthy, and damages delicate eye tissues." If Mom (or Dad) has one of these conditions, start getting yearly vision exams now--even if you see 20/20--and let your doctor know so she can check for early warning signs. If she does spot problems, the sooner you get treated, the more likely your vision will be to stay sharp for years to come.
Tell Us: In what ways are you most like your mother???
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