There’s an age-old saying – women start turning into their mothers when they reach 30. While that may not be true, your mother’s medical history might apply to you.

Genes and health: All the health problems you can inherit from your mother

Some of the most useful and essential life hacks you know may have been learned from your mother. Such as how to manage money efficiently, how to be there for your kids at all times, and how to take some time out for yourself. You may have also learned all the best recipes and cooking tricks from her. 

There’s another thing you should learn from your mother – her medical history. 

While you may know some of her ailments, you need to sit down and understand her medical history from the beginning. Doctors typically recommend this for all your family members. But you can start with your mother because there are a lot of health conditions that you, as a daughter, can inherit from her. When you do this, it’s important to note that some health conditions are more genetically linked than others. 

So, it doesn’t mean that you’ll inherit every single disease or medical condition your mother has. But here are some of the ones you should watch out for:

1. Breast cancer

The cause of breast cancer is still not conclusively known. However, it has been found that if one of your first-degree female relatives – mother, sister, or daughter – is diagnosed with breast cancer, you’re twice as likely to get it as well. And if two of your first-degree relatives have been diagnosed with it, your risk is five times more than average. A mutation in the BRCA gene is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer and it may run in the family, so you should get a test done to see if you have it. In addition to getting regular mammograms, there are a few other things you can do to reduce the risk: maintain your weight, watch your alcohol intake, and avoid hormone replacement therapy. 

Related: Breast cancer awareness campaigns that educated women worldwide

2. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis isn’t as related to genes as other health conditions, but it can be one of the factors. If your mother has suffered a fracture related to osteoporosis, such as breaking a hip bone, you need to be cautious. If you are 50 or older, you should get a baseline density scan, or a bone density test, that measures the strength of your bones. If you’re younger, you can change your lifestyle habits to err on the side of caution: take calcium and vitamin D supplements, avoid smoking, and consult your doctor regularly. 

3. Thyroid

An under- or overactive thyroid is one of the most common hereditary conditions. Studies show that up to 67% of circulating thyroid hormone and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) are genetically determined. This is true for both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. If you’re always tired, sensitive to cold, struggle with frequent constipation and weight gain, experience muscle aches, weakness, and cramps, you should get yourself tested for hypothyroidism. The symptoms of hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, are anxiety, nervousness, mood swings, diarrhoea, muscle weakness, and sensitivity to heat. 

Related: Common questions women have about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

4. Diabetes

Your lifestyle, including your eating habits, level of physical activity, and weight, play a major role in determining whether (or how soon) you get type 2 diabetes. But it’s also genetic in the sense that if your mother, father, or sibling has it, you’re at a higher risk of being diagnosed with it too. You should maintain a recommended body mass index (BMI) and keep a regular check on your blood pressure and cholesterol. As for type 1 diabetes, there are several factors that can cause it but if one of your parents has it, your risk increases too. 

5. Depression 

Depression is one of those diseases that has a gender gap – it’s more common in women than in men. Indeed, women are twice as likely to get depression than men. If your mother, or any other relative, has clinical depression, it increases your risk by five times. This doesn’t mean you will definitely get it; it only means that if you are put in stressful situations, you’re more vulnerable to depression than someone who doesn’t have a close relative with depression. Hence, if your mother has ever suffered from depression, you should watch your mental health closely and be proactive in seeking professional help from a psychologist when things start to go bad.

Related: 6 Ways to prioritise your mental health as a woman and why it’s important

Last words

Knowing your mother’s medical history should not become a source of stress or worry for you. Neither should you adopt an attitude of despair and think that if your mother has something, you will also 100% get it and that there’s nothing you can do to stop it or help yourself. Instead, you should empower yourself with this knowledge and make certain lifestyle changes, watch your health closely, have regular tests done, and get a comprehensive health insurance policy. 

By opting for a health insurance policy, you are protecting yourself financially from the high medical costs you may have to incur in the future owing to these diseases that you are at a high risk for as well as other ailments. A comprehensive health insurance policy also provides you access to better healthcare facilities, a wide range of network hospitals and other benefits such as free annual health check-ups. 

While you get a health insurance policy for yourself, remember to get one for your parents too. This way, you can care for their health financially as they age. Keep in mind that the kind of coverage they need, and the premium you'll have to pay for them will be different as compared to your health insurance policy.