Tis the season for family traditions, eggnog, and grandma’s infamous cherry pie. It is also the perfect time to reflect upon your health and well-being. Whether or not you make New Year’s resolutions or commit to a goal the remaining days of the year, your health is something you can control and improve.
Family health history is a powerful tool when it comes to understanding our bodies. However, most of us moms may not consider this connection and often carry on independently without this important knowledge.
Why is it important to know the ins and outs of your family health history?
Dr. Amanda Magrini, a family medicine physician with Northern Nevada Medical Group shares, “Family history is one of the most important pieces of information we collect when we first meet you as a patient, and it contributes directly to the timing of certain screening tests we may order.
For example, say your dad had a heart attack in his late 30’s, and you come to see me at 35 with chest pain and shortness of breath. I now have the knowledge to advance your care and ensure we screen for preventive purposes.”
The goal of understanding your family health history is the prevention of chronic diseases. As we know too well, knowledge is power, and you want to use this in your favor so you can keep up with your kiddos at every stage of life.
Then comes the question, how do I document my family health history and how far do I go back?
When you start documenting family health history, focus on first-degree relatives such as siblings, parents, and grandparents on both your mother and father’s sides. If you do not have relationships with some of these family members, that is okay.
Gather what you can and your provider can guide the conversation at your next medical appointment.
When to include relatives
There are times when including aunts and uncles are relevant. Specifically, your provider is looking for links to cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and similar patterns.
Your provider will use all of this information to counsel you on when to screen for various diseases if you need labs or other diagnostic work completed.
Cardiologist, Letitia Anderson, MD states, “Beyond genetics, do not forget to list out lifestyle habits, particularly with first degree relatives. Things such as smoking, poor eating patterns, or lack of exercise can affect children into adulthood or those close to a relative. Alternatively, learn from the good habits of your great grandparents who have lived long, healthy lives.”
Remember, you do not have to be sick to see a provider. We encourage patients to check-in with their providers annually. In the meantime, there are plenty of ways to boost your immune system and stay healthy throughout the year.
Boosting Your Immune System
The most important thing you can do for your health is to make sure you are getting enough sleep and finding ways to manage stress. Oddly enough, stress and poor sleep are the top two contributors to a weakened immune system, Dr. Magrini shares.
Pulmonary and sleep nurse practitioner and mom of two, Carrie Yamamoto, MSN, RN, ACNP, CCRN, shares these tips for maintaining better sleep and preventing insomnia, which can be linked to family health history.
Insomnia occurs when someone has difficulty falling and staying asleep or waking up too early. Sleep can also interfere with depression, anxiety, and chronic pain so it is important to establish a routine that leaves you feeling refreshed in the morning.
Tips for Better Sleep
Establish a calming bedtime routine, which may include meditation, prayer, low lighting or a minimally stimulating movie or playlist.
Only two things should occur in bed: sleep or intimate time with your partner. Leave all other activities for when you are awake.
Limit caffeine after 2 p.m. including soda, coffee, and energy drinks. We understand this is a tough one, especially with kids. Find ways to boost your energy naturally through exercise (including walking), a healthy snack, or fizzy/flavored water.
Skip naps. If you are like any mom I know, this is laughable. However, some take advantage of naps when their littles are sleeping. Try to limit this practice so you can maximize your nighttime zzzz’s.
How to Reduce Stress
Moms are the givers to everyone and everything, which means we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves. We may also inherit our mother’s “do it all” attitude and apply it without thinking.
Today’s environment also makes it harder to get the self-care you need but there are options to reduce triggers caused by stress.
Andrea Thompson, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, PMHNP-BC, family medicine nurse practitioner and psychiatric mental health nurse with an emphasis on perinatal women’s health discusses, “I see women at various phases of motherhood and outside of unique behavioral concerns, there is a commonality among their concerns.
We often take on the world without considering our mental health and well-being. I encourage more women to seek support – friends, your provider, or counselor – so you can live with full purpose.”
Study and practice relaxation techniques
You can do this anywhere, even when you are hiding in the bathroom from your kiddos. Deep breathing, imagery, muscle relaxation, and meditation are simple ways to get started. Start with five minutes and build up to more based on what your body needs.
Set realistic expectations
As moms, we want to achieve it all but in a day’s time that is not possible. Be kind to yourself and allow the day to unfold – even if you did not accomplish all your to do’s.
Remember your values
These values can guide the people around you and the activities you participate in so you live healthier and make choices that support your core values.
Learn how to say no
Evaluate what you want to be involved in and what will positively fuel your mental health.
There are so many distractions in today’s world, so take the time to breathe and be in the moment. The simple practice of closing your eyes, putting down your device, or minimizing distractions can help your body relax and ease any tension.
The Skinny on Supplements
Now that you know your family health history, ways to minimize stress, and improve sleep, where do supplements play a role in boosting immunity? Dr. Magrini breaks down the top four supplements that can support your health.
*Disclaimer: Always consult a provider before starting a new supplement. Although some prove to be safe, they can trigger unwanted symptoms or affect existing health conditions and medications.
Zinc is best known to help fight off bacteria and viruses. Before starting a supplement, make sure you are eating foods rich in zinc such as seafood, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains and some dairy products.
A supplement should be reserved for those with GI conditions, vegetarians, and should be discussed with your child’s provider for children that might need a supplement.
According to Harvard Health, about 70-percent of Americans lack sufficient amounts of vitamin D due to limited sunshine. Vitamin D keeps our bones healthy and our immune system strong.
Current research does not have a definitive answer on whether probiotics are effective. However, most research shows positive results from use.
There are a variety of strains available so consulting your provider on where to begin will help you determine if a probiotic is effective.
Magnesium is proven to improve sleep and reduce stress. Some adults may get enough magnesium in their diet but for those that do not a supplement can help.
Overall, magnesium supports energy production, and can help with those pesky leg cramps! Just do not take too much; it can be too effective at getting your bowels to move.
Look Ahead and Set Goals
Staying healthy can sometimes feel like a long chore list waiting to be done. Take this advice in bite-size pieces and prioritize how and when you can enhance your health.
Start writing down your 2021 health goals today and get a head start on a revitalized you!
Northern Nevada Health System is a regional network of care that has elevated and improved access to healthcare for 40 years. The System operates two acute care hospitals located in Sparks and Reno, 24/7 freestanding emergency departments, a Medical Group which offers family and internal medicine, urgent care and specialty care, and Quail Surgical and Pain Management. NNHS is committed to maintaining and improving the well-being of the community and is known for top-rated patient satisfaction, in addition to providing quality care and a safe environment for patients to heal. To learn more, visit northernnevadahealth.com.