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This weekend we celebrate Mothers. As some of the most kind, caring, and compassionate people in the world, it’s important to show thanks for their support throughout the years. Not only do they support you in your worldly endeavors, but they are solely responsible for your nurturing before you’re brought into the world. Because of that nurturing, you may find it surprising to hear that your Mother is responsible for more than just emotional support and love.

You may have learned back in High School that genes are your body’s blueprint. They are housed in structures called chromosomes and they carry all the instructions for producing all the proteins in your body and, thus, determining how your body looks and works. But where do these genes come from? Well, you get one set from your father and one set from your mother, the contributions of this are roughly equal.

But what, exactly, are you inheriting from your Mother?

First off, you probably inherited some of your good looks from your Mother (give her an extra hug for your eye color or your dazzling smile!). Genes’ ability to affect your appearance is why some people may tell you that you have your Mom’s eyes, but your Dad’s nose. But along with your good looks, you can also inherit diseases, or a greater likelihood of getting a certain disease, from either of your parents.

Healthy genes come from planting healthy roots. You Mom is responsible for the very critical stages of your gene creation: pregnancy. Factors that go into a baby’s development are much more complex than many researchers thought. In fact, you can think of the future health of a baby being set from the moment they are conceived. Many things can affect a baby during pregnancy, like diet, physical activity, and social choices. During pregnancy, the baby is really living off of the Mother’s nutrition. So if your Mom is staying healthy and eating her greens, along with taking any necessary vitamins, their baby is receiving that same nutrition in the womb.

When it comes to whether or not your genes are affected by your Mom’s health, that is still up for debate! With certain conditions like cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and even heart disease, genes aren’t always the deciding factor. But with some diseases, it’s almost certain that if you were to inherit that gene from your parents, you’d also inherit the disease. Some conditions, like Huntington’s disease, are caused by a change to a single gene. If you have a parent with this disease, then you’ve got a 50-50 chance of getting it yourself. Unlike Huntington’s, certain diseases like type 2 diabetes or cancer are caused by a combination of genetic changes and lifestyle habits. Remember, you can likely overcome heredity and stay healthy by making smarter health decisions throughout your life. You can avoid diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes with lifestyle changes like eating healthy, exercising often, stopping smoking, and making sure to reduce stress when possible.

When it comes to genes, know that your mother had no control over the traits that she passed to you. What she did have more control over was how well she nourished you while you were in her belly and during those first critical years of your life. So give you Mom a big hug this Mother’s Day and tell her how grateful you are that she is your Mom!

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