Many genetic diseases are apparent at birth, but some don’t manifest their symptoms until later in life. The fact is, your genes could be a ticking time bomb, and developing a genetic disease could already be a part of your inevitable future. The question is, how do you find out if you’re at risk, and more importantly, what can you do about it?
Look at Your Family History
If you have a family history of a certain disorder, then this could be cause for concern. Most people who suffer from genetic diseases have inherited the condition, and this can happen in a number of different ways. Whether that occurs through the passing on of mutations in the genes, or through recessive, dominant or x-linked inheritance, if you have a history of genetic disease in your family, you could be at risk. More information about the different ways of inheriting mutated genes can be found on the NHS website.
New Genetic Mutations
It’s worth noting that you can also have what’s called a ‘new mutation’, where the mutation is made during the development of a single sperm or egg. Someone with a new mutation won’t have a family history of a condition, but they could be at risk of developing a partial form of the disorder or even passing it on to their children in the future. Both Haemophilia (a disease which stops blood being able to clot) and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (a condition that gradually causes muscles to weaken) are both conditions caused by new genetic mutations.
In some cases, you can be tested for genetic disorders for free on the NHS, but most people have to pay to be tested privately by an organisation like EasyDNA. Either way, it’s the best way to put your mind at rest, but you should always be prepared for bad news and really think long and hard about how knowing this kind of information could affect your life. Some people prefer not to know, and just to let nature take its course, but others feel like they need to know what to expect in the future when it comes to their health, so that they can prepare for any tough times ahead.
Reducing the Risk
If you test positive for a mutated gene and are told that you are very likely to develop a particular genetic disease because of its presence in your family history, then there are some lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of actually developing the condition.
It’s very rare that a genetic disease is caused by genes alone, and there are often lifestyle factors that contribute to the development of these types of conditions, like a person’s diet and frequency of exercise. A poor diet, lack of exercise and other factors such as smoking can all contribute to the development of genetic diseases in those who have mutated genes, so altering your lifestyle could have the potential to help you escape a condition.
Whether this is a determining factor in the development of a genetic mutation to a genetic disease has not been confirmed, but most medical professionals agree that some diseases, like Coronary Heart Disease, can be prevented by making changes to your lifestyle.
For more information on the different types of genetic diseases, visit the Genetic Disease Foundation’s website.