Even as a child I realized my family had a lot of health issues. I might not have realized it as young as I did except for the fact that while most everyone was sick with some serious health problem my grandfather never go sick. Not even a cold.
In my teens I vowed I would not end up sick as well. The list of diseases in my family is long.
- Both parents and their parents died of heart disease
- My grandmother, mother and myself were born with a congenital kidney problem.
- Two great aunts died of breast cancer
- Various uncles suffered from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson diseases
- Diabetes was rampant with several aunts, uncles, maternal grandfather and maternal great-grandmother suffering with it. Two relatives had to have amputations as a result.
- Other illnesses included: gall bladder disease, glaucoma, hypothyroidism, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and gout to name a few.
My siblings suffer even more problems. Two of my sisters at age 40 nearly lost their lives. One needing heart bypass surgery, the other losing all her female parts to two forms of aggressive cancer. My brother has liver disease (not from alcohol). All my sisters are dealing with high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, and gallbladder disease.
As I learned more about health and nutrition I became a vegan, then a vegetarian and back and forth.I should mention that I became a vegan when I had cancer (age 23) and was diagnosed with gallbladder disease the following year. Since that time I’ve been relatively healthy. Sure a few colds here and there, my disability worsened but that was to be expected. A positive change from giving up animal products was complications with my congenital kidney problems. The last time I had an issue with my kidney was when I was 23.
One striking difference between myself and my siblings is they know why I changed my diet but their attitude is you only live once so have fun. I say I only have one life and I want to be healthy to experience it.
I’ve felt that I managed pretty well. I had to check the box for gallbladder disease and cancer (but not breast cancer). I’ve reached my mid-50s pretty happy and believing diet could prevent all the diseases I witnessed in my family.
This week I sat down with my doctor and mentioned my struggle to lose weight. He was happy with my blood pressure (120/64 my blood pressure has been consistent since my teens the highest it’s ever been was 120/70 with the exception of my pregnancies) but wanted to take some blood and run a few tests. All the tests came back in what his office calls the very good range. No cholesterol problems, not even close to pre-diabetic, etc. But one test came back with a problem.
Seems I didn’t escape every thing through diet.
When I was young I was told two issues I needed to keep an eye on because they were hereditary were the glaucoma and hypothyroidism. I had extensive testing done in my 30s on my thyroid and nothing appeared abnormal. Well, turns out today my thyroid is under performing. The symptoms of hypothyroidism include
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Puffy face
- Muscle weakness
- Elevated blood cholesterol level
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
- Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
- Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
- Thinning hair
- Slowed heart rate
- Impaired memory
I can check so many things off this list as being issues I’ve been dealing with it;s easier to list the ones I haven’t experienced. I haven’t experienced elevated cholesterol levels, slowed heart rate or depression. I haven’t noticed memory issues per se but I’ve been noticing struggling to find a word I want to use happening on a pretty regular basis. The hair loss I’ve had since the birth of my second child (at age 24), cold intolerance has been a regular part of my life for so long I can’t tell you when it started.
So today I start on thyroid medication. I’m not thrilled to need a prescription medication but if I can feel better and return to my normal weight I will be happy.
Why did I tell you all this?
I shared my family health history today to show that even though genetics will determine certain things such as eye color, or that same gray streak in my hair my grandmother had, we have more power over our destiny than genetic does. Dr. Christiane Northrup explains that our genes predict less than 10% of all diseases.
I’m not trying to say a vegan/vegetarian diet is right for everyone. What I do believe is that each of us has the ability to listen to our bodies and know what it needs from us. If all we do is adopt a whole foods diet, one free of processed junk foods, we would all see an improvement in our health.
It was very important thousands of years ago to categorize things. I can eat that plant, I can’t eat that plant. Or this tribe, not that tribe. We don’t have to do that anymore – we have processed food now! ~~Keegan-Michael Key