It’s All In Your Genes

Each DNA molecule in the body carries tens of thousands of genes. These genes have certain features that determine hair color, height, and skin color. But that’s not all. There are other essential traits located in one’s genetic makeup. Some of these traits, under certain conditions, can turn out to be damaging to overall health and wellness. A doctor may call this a genetic predisposition. Knowing one’s genetic predisposition can help disease prevention and even impact future generations.

center for family medicine What Does It Mean To Have A Genetic Predisposition Family History And Your Health

Do you have a genetic predisposition?

A genetic predisposition is the increased chance of developing a particular disease. The genetic characteristic can usually be traced back to family history. Genetic variations are passed down to children over time. Sometimes, these are different from the typical gene in a healthy person. Often, one or more relatives may have developed the same disease or condition. Someone with a genetic predisposition is not guaranteed to develop the disease. Instead, some external factor triggers the disease.

Cause and effect

There are a range of conditions and illnesses linked to a genetic predisposition. These include certain cancers, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, asthma, celiac disease, and more. Researchers have also linked mental illnesses, autism, and even addiction to genetics. There is usually an external trigger like diet, environment, smoking, hormone changes, or severe illness. External factors are why one family member develops a disease, and the other does not.

Finding your genetic predispositions

Most people do not know a genetic predisposition exists until a severe illness develops. Others may have an idea because family members are unwell. A standard genetic test can help determine if the particular genes exist. A medical professional may ask questions about family history. A DNA sample through blood or a cheek swab is taken and studied at a lab. The test identifies if someone is at risk for a particular disease. From there, the person can take steps to remain healthy.

Prevention is better than cure

If a lab or medical professional confirms a genetic predisposition, everyone involved can be proactive. The doctor can help patients with a review of diet, environment, or external factors that can trigger the disease. The patient can also make lifestyle changes to reduce the chances of any unwanted condition. Genetic testing is crucial for couples trying to get pregnant. The couples know in advance the susceptibility of disease. From there, couples can take further steps during the process.

The more you know

A genetic predisposition is not a death sentence or guarantee that someone will become sick. The diagnosis is an indicator that the disease can be triggered. This is different from a congenital genetic disease. With these types of genetic diseases, the person is born with the condition. Millions of people with genetic predispositions go on to live long, healthy, disease-free lives. Take a look at immediate family history for any trends. Then make sure to speak with a doctor for guidance on getting tested.