Will you inherit your mother's health?

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Will You Inherit Your Mother's Health?

Last updated: Thursday, April 20, 2017 | 5 min reading time

Chew Tec Hock Jeffrey

Orthopaedic Surgeon

Lee Kim En


Tan Yah Yuen

General Surgeon

Tay Leslie


Like mother, like child. There are so many ways that you can take after your mum – you may have her brown eyes, dimples and rambunctious laugh.

It is no news that your mum has played a huge role in shaping your life and who you are, and that you have much to thank her for – but when it comes to your health, don't be too quick to blame it on your mother's genes.

While you may be genetically predisposed to certain health conditions, the chief responsibility for your health still falls on you. There are risk factors that are within your control, which you can manage in order to take ownership of your health.

Heart disease

The risk of you developing heart disease increases significantly if anyone in your immediate family, including your mother, has had a heart attack or has suffered chest pains due to blocked arteries. However, there are things you can do to keep your heart healthy.

Regardless of age, you should aim to identify your risks and take control of them. Doing so will significantly reduce your risk of developing heart and vascular disease.


If your mother has had thinning bones or if you've inherited her smaller body frame, you are more likely to get osteoporosis. Fortunately for you, there are many things that you can do from a young age to prevent it from happening.

If many of your relatives have osteoporosis, you might also want to consider getting bone scans from a younger age.

Rheumatoid arthritis

You're up to 50% more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis if your mother had it. This condition occurs when the immune system attacks the body, leading to inflammation of the joint lining and cartilage. It can cause a painful swelling that may eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity.

Here are lifestyle measures you can take to lower your risk of developing it.

Breast cancer

If your mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer, your risk of developing the disease is almost doubled. If you have inherited a harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, your risk of developing breast cancer increases to between 40 – 85%, roughly 3 – 7 times greater than that of a woman without the mutation.

However, there are other risk factors that are within your control. Some things you can do to manage your risk factors are as follows

It is a good idea for you to go for regular screening as well, and you may want to get screened at a younger age if you have a strong family history of breast cancer.


Your risk of suffering from migraines increases by 50% if your mother is afflicted by the condition. While there is little that you can do to prevent it from happening, you are able to manage the condition by making some changes to your lifestyle.

It would probably be wise for you to be more mindful of consuming certain foods – alcohol, chocolate, cheese, coffee and citrus fruits are common dietary triggers of migraines. Where possible, try to avoid places with bright lights or strong smells. Drink plenty of water, get ample rest each day, and manage the stress you face in your life. Find out your triggers, and avoid them.

Alzheimer's disease and dementia

If your mother suffered from early-onset Alzheimer's disease, your risk of developing the disease increases by about 30 – 50%. There is also a 3 – 5% increase in your chances of developing dementia. Fortunately, there are things you can do to fight those odds.

Current evidence suggests that heart-healthy eating may also help protect the brain. Heart-healthy eating includes limiting the intake of sugar and saturated fats and making sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and wholegrains.

Combined, these can reduce your risk of developing dementia by roughly 20%.

Just because you are genetically predisposed to certain conditions doesn't mean that you are destined to develop them. For most of these conditions, the causes are a complex interplay of genetics and other factors.

There are risk factors that are within your control, which you can manage in order to be the healthiest version of yourself. While you may be disadvantaged from the genetic standpoint, you are able to take ownership or your life and your health by doing your part to stay healthy.

Russell MB, Olesen J. Increased familial risk and evidence of genetic factor in migraine. BMJ. 1995; 311:541-544.

Fukui, Patrícia Timy et al. Trigger factors in migraine patients. Arq. Neuro-Psiquiatr. [online]. 2008, vol.66, n.3a [cited 2017-04-12], pp.494-499.

Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. Familial breast cancer: collaborative reanalysis of individual data from 52 epidemiological studies including 58,209 women with breast cancer and 101,986 women without the disease. Lancet. 358: 1389-99, 2001.




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Cancer prevention Women's health