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Your Medical Future? Mother Knows Best

GENERIC 041802, Menopause Womens health, JM, story woman health
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Women are often aware of certain aspects of their mother's medical history, such as whether Mom's at risk of developing heart disease or breast cancer. But there's much about Mom's medical history that women are not aware of, says Fitness Magazine features editor Trisha Calvo.

She visited The Saturday Early Show to suggest seven important questions women may want to ask their mothers to prevent health problems in themselves.

How much did you weight at age 25?
Your mother may have been very thin when she was younger and then gained weight as the years went by, so you'll want to ask her what caused the weight gain. Was there a change in diet or exercise? Did she have trouble losing weight after giving birth? If, for instance, a lack of exercise is the probable cause of the weight gain in your mother, you can begin an exercise regimen to prevent it from happening to you, says Calvo.

Did you ever have problems with a pregnancy?
Many pregnancy problems run in families. One example is preeclampsia or dangerously high blood pressure. You'll also want to find out whether your mother took any medications to deal with her pregnancy problems. For instance, women who gave birth before 1972 may have been given a drug called DES. It has since been learned that this drug caused cervical and uterine problems in their daughters, Calvo explains.

How did you react to your first period?
Recent studies indicate that if a mother had bad feelings about her period, her daughter is more likely to as well. Daughters sometime inherit this attitude, which could in some cases be the cause of their Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, or PMS, Calvo says.

How much did I weigh at birth?
According to the March of Dimes, a woman who gives birth to a baby who weighs 9 pounds or more is at greater risk of becoming diabetic later in life. Her children are also at a greater risk of developing diabetes and becoming overweight as adults. The good news is that changes in your lifestyle can dramatically reduce your risk of diabetes. For instance, you can begin exercising more or begin to eat a more healthful diet.

Did you break a bone as an adult?
This question will help you determine whether you are at risk of developing osteoporosis. Now if your mother broke her leg falling off skis, then that's not so out of the ordinary. But if your mother broke a bone after tripping while walking up a flight of stairs, it could signal weak bones. If you find yourself at risk, a lifestyle change can help. For instance you can begin taking extra calcium supplements and do special exercises, Calvo says.

When did you go through menopause?
Fifty-one is the average age a woman begins menopause. But there are many women who begin in their late 30s and early 40s and then there are some women who begin much later than 51. Calvo says you'll want to know if your mom became menopausal early because it will allow you to better time your own pregnancies. While there is not much you can do to delay menopause except stop smoking, you can begin to make lifestyle changes to ease your symptoms.

How often do you feel nervous or blue?
Talking about depression is still taboo with some people, but it shouldn't be because it is the root of many problems. Depression tends to run in families. In fact, Calvo says, there's also a mother-daughter connection for depression-related conditions such as anxiety and eating disorders.