The history of my family’s health is a long and sordid tale. It’s hung over my head like a guillotine from about 13 years of age, ever present as a slow-burning hum in the background of my life. When my doctors ask for a run-down of health history I see their eyes slowly widen.
13- that was the year my father had a heart attack. At 35. Yes, I know how you must be recoiling, 35 is just too young. But he’d smoked and eaten the most unhealthy diet for most of his life, combining that with overwork, well, he wasn’t in the best shape.
Having this happen in your family at 13 kind of changes you. Emotionally and physically. The whole family was promptly placed on a cholesterol diet, something quite unheard of in the 80s, where low fat options didn’t exist and science’s understanding of cholesterol and fats was basic. 13 is quite a formative time in your life, and the good news is that as a result of Dad’s heart attack, I’ve never touched a cigarette and still pay quite a bit of attention to fats in my diet (sugar- well that’s another matter, another post).
As I grew older 35 loomed over my head. I wondered, often, if I was doomed to repeat my fathers history. Every twitch and pain in my arm or shoulder had me panicking that it might be heart attack or angina. Would the same thing happen to me at 35? The year I turned 35 was probably the healthiest year of my life, as my fear drove me to make healthy decsions.
Clearly, I made it- and I’m now facing down the milestone of my mothers health crisis- breast cancer at 44. Oh, that was another tough one! In the honours year of my psychology degree I had begun a thesis on how the immune system fights cancer, and mediations role in improving the immune system. The horror of my mother being diagnosed mid-thesis was almost too much. But I battled on, sharing all of my research and literature that I came across, helping her to cope with the diagnosis. Now, just a few years off this milestone myself, thoughts turn again to preventing my Mothers history repeating. Soon to have my first mammogram, with a diet and fasting regime that improves my chances, I’m tackling this fear head on.
If you only do three things:
1.Do you know your family health history? Have you documented it or shared it with your doctor? Speak to your family about their and their parents health history.
2.Be aware of what tests exist for the conditions your parents and grandparents suffered from. Research what age this testing should begin. For example, those with a family history of breast cancer have different recommendations to the general public.
3.So many of our family’s health issues are preventable. What steps can you take in your life that lead to good health and help to prevent serious health issues?