Fight the health risks lurking in your gene pool
You've got mom's hips and dad's unmistakable Nose. But your genes are also a blueprint of family health problems?risks you can reduce by identifying them early and acting accordingly. It's best to trace back three generations for health information, particularly if family members have been afflicted with disease at an early age, if cancer is prevalent, or if rare conditions have struck, says Dr. Daniel Wattendorf, a medical geneticist at the National Human Genome Research Institute. Here are some common killers of women, your odds of getting them (with or without a family history), and what you can do today to keep them as harmless as dad's schnoz.
Odds of getting it Less than 1 in 10
With family risk As high as 1 in 5
Improve your odds Have your blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure checked annually, starting now. Your LDL cholesterol should be less than 130, HDL higher than 50, triglycerides 150 or below, and blood pressure below 130/85.
Odds of getting it 1 in 7
With family risk Slightly more than 8 in 10
Improve your odds Do a self-exam monthly (visit breastcancer.org for a how-to diagram). Have a yearly mammogram starting at age 40. If several women in your family have had breast cancer or ovarian cancer, you may be at an even higher risk. The good news: Detected early, the survival rate is as high as 97 percent.
Odds of getting it 2 in 5
With family risk 1 in 2
Improve your odds Get your blood sugar checked regularly if you have more than one relative affected, if your body mass index is 27 or higher, or if high blood pressure runs in your family (diabetes is linked to both obesity and high blood pressure). A healthy diet and regular exercise are especially important for those at risk.
Odds of getting it 1 in 10
With family risk As high as 3 in 10
Improve your odds This risk is tough to address, since medicine's understanding of Alzheimer's is still evolving. But if you have a family history of early-onset Alzheimer's?which develops in the 40s and 50s?talk to your doctor about assessing your risk.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the Alzheimer's Association, the American Diabetes Association, and BreastCancer.org
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