Genetics and Health
Introduction[edit | edit source]
Few diseases result from a change in a single gene or even multiple genes. Rather, most diseases are complex and stem from an interaction between our genes and our environment. Factors in the environment can range from chemicals in air or water pollution, pesticides, diet choices, or household toxins. Not withstanding, family history is often one of the strongest risk factors for common diseases. For example cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD), atherosclerosis, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and psychiatric illnesses risk are all stronger in persons with a family history of such illnesses.
Family history is a good predictor of an individual’s disease risk as family members most intimately represent the unique genomic and environmental interactions that a person will experience.
- Inherited genetic variation within families clearly contributes directly and indirectly to the pathogenesis of disease. 
- Examples of features of a family history that may increase risk are eg diseases that occur at an earlier age than expected (10 to 20 years before most people get the disease), disease in more than one close relative.
Know Your Family History[edit | edit source]
To learn about your family history:
- Ask questions
- Take the time to talk to family
- If available, look at death certificates and family medical records.
Collect information about your grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, siblings, and children. Look for type information regarding:
- Major medical conditions and causes of death
- Age of disease onset and age at death
- Ethnic background
Knowledge is Power[edit | edit source]
People with a family history of disease, and the knowledge that they may be predisposed to a disease, may have the most to gain from lifestyle changes and screening tests.
If family history reveals a pattern of disease in the family, it may indicate an inherited form of disease. Genetic testing may help determine if family members are at risk.
What Can We Change?[edit | edit source]
Lifestyle, individual medical history, and other factors will have an influence the possibility of getting a disease.
Say an individual has a family history of Diabetes type 2, this individual can lower their risk factors by adhering to a healthy diet, exercise routines and good sleep practices and get appropriate testing. Lifestyle medicine presents a positive way to address the prevention and treatment of many noncommunicable diseases, which are the most prevalent causes for increased morbidity and death worldwide See this link Lifestyle Medicine for Health and Disease Management for more.
An exciting new area of research is Epigenetics and how we can directly influence our genome. See more here Epigenetics
References[edit | edit source]
- NIH Gene and Environment Interaction Available: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/science/gene-env/index.cfm(accessed 1.9.2022)
- Hernandez LM, Blazer DG. Genetics and Health. InGenes, Behavior, and the Social Environment: Moving Beyond the Nature/Nurture Debate 2006. National Academies Press (US). Available:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19932/ (accessed 1.9.2022)
- Alliance G, New York-Mid-Atlantic Consortium for Genetic and Newborn Screening Services. Understanding genetics: a New York, mid-Atlantic guide for patients and health professionals. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK115560/ (accessed 2.9.2022)
- Kushner RF, Sorensen KW. Lifestyle medicine: the future of chronic disease management. Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity. 2013 Oct 1;20(5):389-95.Available:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23974765/ (accessed 2.9.2022)