Look Into Our Crystal Ball

By Meryl Davids Landau
Photograph: Illustration: Neil Webb

Watch Out for: Osteoporosis
The symptom you’ve had: Three or more hot flashes on most days of the week
The link: Symptoms such as frequent hot flashes may be a sign that your nervous system is revved up and producing too many stress hormones, which can also harm bones. A 2009 study linked accelerated bone loss to women with strong vasomotor symptoms.
Protect yourself: Make sure your doctor knows your history. Do resistance training, load up on calcium and vitamin D, and consider hormone therapy. More research is needed, but HT may give you extra bone-building benefits, says researcher Gerrie-Cor Gast of the Utrecht University Medical Center, in the Netherlands.

Watch Out for: Type 2 Diabetes
The symptom you’ve had: Mildly abnormal blood sugar during pregnancy
The link: Researchers know that gestational diabetes indicates an underlying glucose glitch that makes a woman more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later. But a recent Canadian study of 15,000 women concluded that having just mildly elevated blood sugar during pregnancy also signals potential trouble.
Protect yourself: Type 2 diabetes is preventable with a healthy lifestyle: Eat right, exercise and get serious about dropping excess pounds.

Watch Out for: Migraines and Osteoarthritis
The problem you’ve had:  Physical abuse as a child
The links: University of Toledo researchers studying adults with migraines report that those who were abused have more frequent headaches than those who were not abused. Similarly, a study from the University of Toronto found that osteoarthritis patients had higher than normal rates of childhood abuse. “Early life abuse causes permanent changes in the structure and function of the brain,” which seems to heighten the body’s response to stress in adulthood, says the migraine study’s author, Gretchen E. Tietjen, MD. And stress worsens both migraines and ­osteoarthritis.
Protect yourself: Abuse victims may need extra help controlling the way they respond to stress, so consider professional counseling (find a therapist at locator.apa.org or nacbt.org), suggests Esme Fuller-Thomson,
PhD, who coauthored the osteo­arthritis study. Fend off osteoarthritis with strength training and seek treatment, such as biofeedback or medication, for headaches.

Watch Out for: Coronary Artery Disease and Breast Cancer
The symptom you’ve had: Your first menstrual period began before age 12.
The links: According to a British study, you are 23 percent more likely to develop coronary artery disease, in which plaque builds up inside your arteries, if you started menstruating early. One common denominator: extra body fat. Women who get their periods early tend to be heavy, and extra weight ups the odds for heart problems. The boost in breast cancer risk may be tied to a greater lifetime exposure to estrogen.
Protect yourself: Work hard to keep your heart healthy (see “Tune Up Your Ticker,” page 133), get regular mammo­grams, and if there’s a history of cancer in your family, consider genetic testing.

Originally published in the May 2010 issue of More.

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