Learning From Dad's Health History

The following article was reprinted with permission from Men's Health magazine, December 1997


Like it or not men, your dad is the most perfect glimpse you will ever have into your future. He gave you his genes, his habits, his outlooks, and then ran ahead of you by 30 years to test them on the battlefield of life.

Here are 10 questions you should ask your father so that you can have a healthy, satisfying future.

1. Did you care about your health when you were younger?

When he was your age, did your father's exercise program consist of changing the TV channel and lighting another Camel? If so, his heart attack was probably his own doing, and by managing your lifestyle accordingly, you can easily avoid his fate.

2. How did your last physical go?

You need to know if he suffers from diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. They all have strong genetic links and may attack you later in life, too, if you do not make preemptive strikes.

3. How long did your prostate last?

If your dad developed prostate cancer or prostatitis before age 70, it is likely that it was hereditary and your risk of developing prostate problems may be doubled. If this is the case, then changing to a low-fat diet can help in the prevention process.

4. How long have you had those moles?

If your father has carried that constellation of moles throughout his life, you are at a higher risk for skin cancer. If he ever had melanoma, dysplastic nevi or more than one melanoma, your odds of developing skin cancer are greatly increased.

5. Did you ever have vision problems? Say, glaucoma?

Glaucoma is highly inheritable. It can be cured when detected early, but any vision loss is permanent. If your dad ever had glaucoma, you have a 1 in 4 chance of developing it, so make sure your doctor is aware of your father's history.

6. When did you sprout that gut?

Body fat is just as inheritable as height, so look at your family to see where fat is found on their bodies. If your relatives wear most of their fat around their bellies, rather than on their hips, you are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

7. What drove you?

Many men regret not knowing what motivated their fathers. Men are unconsciously driven by their fathers and many hold themselves back because they do not want to compete with them. Just being aware of your father's influence is key.

8. How did you blow off steam?

You need to find out how he deals with the everyday hardships: job stress, financial pressures, marital rough points. Chances are you cope with stress the same way. If your dad gritted his teeth for 30 years, you may be following his lead to an early heart attack.

9. Any vices ever get the best of you?

If your dad preferred to unwind by drinking, you better learn now. Just having one parent who was an alcoholic increases your risk of becoming an alcoholic fourfold.

10. How often do you have sex?

We know you do not want to even think about your father's sex life, but you can benefit by knowing whether or not he hasn't had sex or even a passable erection in many years. Some health quirk or lifestyle choice probably set him on the road to impotence, and you might follow him off the same cliff if you're not careful.


Copyright 1997 by Men's Health magazine

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