When you hear the word pamana, your mind automatically registers nice things: real estate, a small sum of money, or maybe a modest piece of heirloom jewelry. Even something as simple as good education counts as a valuable inheritance.
The thing is, though, not all pamana are great. The national debt we “inherited”—which first significantly shot up in the late '60s, for instance. (Ahem, Senator Bongbong.)
But the worst type of inheritance has got to be the diseases that your elders and their kin before them have passed on to them, to you, and so on. So, be informed. Check out the three most notable diseases you should be looking out for in your family medical history.
Killer Pamana #1: Hypertension
According to the latest statistics from the Department of Health (DOH), cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of death in the country. And hypertension, which has come to be known as “The Silent Killer,” falls under this category.
General Practitioner, Dr. Maria Angela Dealino explains that hypertension is characterized as a “persistent systolic and/or diastolic elevation ng blood pressure.
The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute pegs figures for normal blood pressure at 120/80 max for adults, and blood pressure readings at 120 to 139 over 80 to 89 is considered to be in the prehypertension stage. If the number above on your blood pressure reading hits 140 or higher, then you’re already considered a hypertensive.
Hypertension is deadly because “it is a risk factor for a lot of the other cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack (myocardial infarction),” says Dr. Dealino. “Another disease ay yung heart failure—yung mahina 'yung ability ng heart to supply blood to the body.”
Killer Pamana #2: Cancer
Although ranking only second to cardiovascular diseases on the DOH’s list of causes of mortality, cancer is one of the biggest and scariest threats to our health because it can hit any part of the body.
"Yung mechanism ng cancer, imbes na 'yung normal na cells that are old or damaged would die, they survive, and new cells continue to form. At dumadami sila nang dumadami until mag-form ng tumors," explains Dr. Dealino. From these, cancer cells can invade nearby tissue or migrate and spread to other parts of the body.
The more common courses of treatment are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy—depending on how far along your cancer is—but these are all very pricey procedures, and currently, there is still no cure that can guarantee 100-percent eradication of cancer cells and ensure non-recurrence.
Another thing that makes cancer worrisome is how genetics can be a factor to its development. “Kasi merong hypothesis diyan na pag may namana na defective na gene, it would only take another [incident] para mabago yung isa pang gene,” Dr. Dealino says. “So mas madali kang magkaka-cancer compared to a person na normal yung parehong genes niya.”
Killer Pamana #3: Diabetes
Diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar levels which can be due to a lack of insulin—the hormone in charge of keeping your blood sugar in check (Type 1 Diabetes) or the body having enough insulin, but is unable to use it properly (Type 2 Diabetes).
Dr. Dealino also points out two other types of diabetes: gestational (diabetes that manifests only during a woman’s pregnancy) and secondary, which can be a result of other diseases.
"Yung secondary diabetes pwedeng makuha from diseases ng pancreas or effect ng drug,” adds Dr. Dealino. “Pwedeng may genetic susceptibility ka to develop [diabetes], kunwari from a drug, or from another disease.”
The American Diabetes Association lists blurred vision, insatiable hunger and thirst, unexplainable weight loss, slow-healing cuts or bruises, and tingling sensations, pain or numbness of the hands and feet as symptoms of diabetes.
Diabetes can actually lead to complications like nerve damage, blindness, bacterial and fungal infections of the skin, blisters (like the ones that form after you get burned), kidney failure, and even high blood pressure, and stroke, to name a few.
Insulin injections and oral medication are common treatments for diabetes, together with healthy habits as illustrated in the Philippine Diabetes Association poster below.
However, Dr. Dealino notes that for all these diseases, “it doesn't mean na pag meron ka sa family, na makukuha mo rin siya. Yung genes [na namamana mo] is just one factor. Interplay talaga siya between genetics and environment and yung lifestyle mo.”
Adds Dr. Dealino: “In a way kasi, di predictable yung combination ng factors na yun that will bring about disease. Pero there are things you can do to minimize the risk or lessen the chances to get that disease. Or if you get that disease, ma-lessen ang complications and ang impact niya sa health mo.”
Photo via diabetesphil.org, unforgettable.org, igerontologico.com, iamstem.wordpress.com