Knowing your family’s medical history is critical when it comes to safeguarding your own health…
And genetics do far more than just predict the shape of your hands and the colour of your eyes. Here’s a list of the most common conditions passed down through our genes…
- Allergies and asthma If one parent suffers from allergies or asthma, the child has a 50% chance of suffering too. If both parents suffer, the risk for the child increases to 75%. It’s worth noting that these may not always present in children, with many adults developing allergies after 30. For instance, adult asthma may be chronic, or triggered by colds, cold air, smoke or exposure to wood dust, chemical sprays and plastics.
- Alzheimer’s: The risk of developing dementia due to Alzheimer’s is slightly higher if an immediate relative (parent or sibling) suffers. The study into the genetic mechanisms of Alzheimer’s among families is still in its infancy.
- Depression This is a medical disorder with a biological and chemical basis. Although researchers have identified several genes that may be involved in bipolar disorder, they’re still searching for genes linked to depression. It seems as likely to run in families as not.
- Diabetes Both type 1 and type 2 have a genetic link, and although little can be done about type 1 (insulin-dependent diabetes), type 2 is far more controllable due to its link with lifestyle factors.
- Glaucoma If you have a family member with glaucoma, you have a much greater risk of developing it yourself. If left untreated, it may lead to blindness in both eyes. If a family member has it, make sure your regular eye tests include glaucoma screening.
- High cholesterol This tends to run in families, and higher levels place you at greater risk of developing heart disease. Get tested regularly and follow a cholesterol-friendly diet if it runs in your family.
- Hypertension High blood pressure has no symptoms and is therefore dubbed the silent killer. Monitor your levels regularly if family members suffer from hypertension.
- Malignant melanoma Some families are affected by FAMMM syndrome, or familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome. The hallmarks of this condition are one or more close family members having more than 50 moles, some of which are atypical. Families affected are encouraged to have regular screenings every 4-6 months.
- Ovarian cancer A family history of ovarian cancer slightly increases your risk of the disease, but the most significant risk factor for this cancer is having an inherited mutation of one of two genes, namely BRCA1 and BRCA2 (breast cancer genes 1 and 2).