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How Well Can Genetics Predict Your Future?

Written by Courteney

Posted on March 13, 2016 at 5:19 pm

Your genetics play an important role in helping predict potential health issues that  ‘run in the family’. Inherited genes work in tandem with other factors to make up your health situation. We will touch on some very common conditions that are heavily influenced by genetics.

Do Genes Cause Diseases?

Unless there is a clearly heritable disease that is derived through genetic mutations directly inherited from one or both parents, then no, genes aren’t usually the sole cause most conditions (but they do play a leading part). There is a reason family pools often share similar medical problems; inherited risk factors are passed down from generation to generation through common variant genes.

Other Risk Factors

Through extensive research using many different methods such as twin studies, medical scientists have identified a number of other risk factors that pair with genetics to cause diseases, the two main ones are:

  1. Environmental – potentially harmful elements or substances you’ve been exposed throughout your life or for a portion of it that may alter your DNA, such as too much sunlight or asbestos.
  2. Lifestyle habits – Our lifestyles also have a strong influence over possible health issues as well. Some of these habits include a good or bad diet, sedentary lifestyles versus getting regular exercise, as well as drinking heavily or smoking.

Common Conditions That Run in Families

According to NIH Senior Health, there are many diseases that run in families. This means the diseases aren’t directly caused by, but are heavily linked to familial genetic patterns. Some of these conditions include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, cholesterol, and conditions such as cardiomegaly and cardiomyophathy)
  • Stroke, blood clots and other similar conditions
  • Asthma and other lung diseases
  • Psoriasis
  • Cancer
  • Miscarriages and some birth defects
  • Arthritis
  • Depression and other mental health conditions
  • Diabetes

Early detection

Knowing your genetics can certainly help prevent or at least slow potential future health complications. For example, if you know there is a history of breast or ovarian cancer in your family, you can be tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Testing positive will put you at a 50% higher risk of developing these diseases. While this would be very frightening information to know, it would also be helpful so you can take adequate preventative measures such as diet, lifestyle, or in some cases a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy or salpingo-oophorectomy may be recommended to decrease chances.

Genetic Counseling

In genetic counseling, clinical geneticists will help you identify conditions that may be specific to you and your family, as well as help calculate the risks of you or your children in developing them. Genetic counselors can discuss possible birth complications high risk pregnant women may face. They can also help you make decisions about testing, treatment or preventative measures you can try.

What If You Don’t Know Your Genes?

If you were adopted, your familial health history may be tricky to track down. Some adoption agencies collect family health histories from birth parents who bring children in for adoption, but it can be hard to find out which agency to check. However, there is still some value in looking into your adoptive family’s history as it may show cultural, social and environmental risk factors you and your surrogate family may have in common because of your living situation and environment.

If you are concerned about your genetics and have questions, feel free to contact one of our highly trained physicians at DocChat for guidance. Thanks for stopping by, we hope to see you again soon!

 

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