Do you know your family’s medical history? If you don’t, but you can discover it, doing so is worth your while. You might run a higher risk of certain disorders, and not knowing could result in unnecessary heartache and frustration. Here’s why your family health history matters, and why you should call your relatives…
1. Your Mental Health Is Partially Genetic
Studies in identical twins reveal that if one sibling has schizophrenia, the other is 40% to 50% as likely to have the disease. While the rates vary for other mental disorders, scientists have found a genetic link to conditions like depression.
This information matters because you can take measures to avoid stressors likely to trigger a depressive episode. For example, if your mother often became down when current events took a turn for the worst, you could avoid watching the news and limit your social media consumption. You might also say no to careers such as reporting that expose you to nonstop input, much of it negative.
2. So Is Your Susceptibility to Addiction
If one or both of your parents struggled with alcohol addiction, you might have inherited genes that put you at risk.
Researchers have discovered three, in particular, that influence the way your body processes alcohol:
ADH1B: This gene variant might protect you from alcoholism. Common in east Asian populations, it causes you to flush uncomfortably when you have a drink. Europeans with a low frequency of this gene are more prone to alcohol use disorders.
GABRB1: If you have this genetic mutation, you are more prone to self-medicate with alcohol. Pay attention if you turn to drink when you feel emotional stress. Those individuals with unmanaged chronic pain may also run an elevated risk, as they seek to numb the ache.
Beta-Klotho: Do you envy your friends who can stop after one? They may possess this gene variant. People who do not may find it challenging to stop once they start.
Alcohol isn’t the only problematic substance. If your parents used other drugs, you might also have a genetic propensity, although it’s challenging to determine your environment’s influence.
3. You Could Be Wired for Hypertension
High blood pressure can run in families. Your risk of hypertension might increase based on your genetic factors, age,] race, and ethnicity.
For instance, black people tend to develop high blood pressure more often than whites. They also endure increased minority stress, which can influence the development of this disorder. As with many conditions, it’s challenging to disentangle environmental influences from genetic factors.
4. You Might Be Predisposed to Diabetes
Two types of diabetes exist — Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 is an autoimmune disorder that prevents your pancreas from making sufficient insulin or your body from using it effectively. Your child’s risk for this disorder doubles if you develop it before age 11. However, scientists also believe environmental factors influence who gets it later in life, meaning knowing your family health history could help you avoid triggers.
Type 2 diabetes develops over time, often in response to environmental factors such as a poor diet. However, researchers identified several genetic variants that increase your risk. While it’s always wise to eat a healthy diet, you might need to pay closer attention to yours if this disorder runs in your family.
5. Your Fertility May Depend on It
Various reproductive disorders have genetic links. For example, you are five times more likely to have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) if your mother had the condition. While this disease may not render you infertile, it could make conception more challenging.
Other conditions associated with difficulty conceiving include uterine fibroids and endometriosis. Both may have a genetic basis. Likewise, your partner’s low sperm count could stem from a genetic variation, but he won’t know his risk unless he examines his background.
6. Your Unborn Child Deserves to Know
If you do get pregnant, your child deserves to know their family health history. Sometimes, disorders may skip a generation and show up again in grandchildren.
For example, phenylketonuria (PKU) is a recessive single-gene disease that frequently follows this pattern. Those with this disorder must avoid certain substances and artificial sweeteners, lest they face severe health consequences.
7. It Could Explain Some Weighty Issues
Do you struggle to win the battle of the bulge? Your tendency toward thick thighs is probably inherited.
Fortunately, though, research shows that genetics dictate roughly 25% of your body size. The rest you determine through your diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices.
8. You Can Take Preventative Measures Now
The number one reason why your family health history matters is that you can take preventative measures now to improve your chances of positive outcomes. While genes influence your health, they are not the sole determining factor of whether you get sick.
If you know you may be at risk of diabetes, you can avoid excess sugar and processed carbohydrates while increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. If heart disease runs in your family, you can limit your salt intake and avoid smoking and alcohol.
Your Family Health History Matters — Discover Yours Today
Your family health history matters because it provides a roadmap to your likelihood of contracting various disorders.