Our DNA is the foundation of our lives.  

DNA provides us with so much interesting information, too. You may have noticed recently that multiple ancestry websites now offer DNA testing. What does this accomplish?

Our genetics can tell us where we’re from. People are excited about this because, up until now, they’ve only had a rough idea of where their ancestors came from. Now, they get detailed information – which countries their ancestors came from and even famous people they’re related to. 

Testing a person’s genetics has another benefit as well. It can tell you whether you have the genetic predisposition for certain diseases. 

How does that work? To fully understand this, let’s first consider what genes are. Then, we can see how they relate to our health. 

What Are Genes and Genetics? 

According to the U.S. National Library of Science, the gene definition is this: “a gene is the basic physical and functional unit of heredity.”

Genes are made up of DNA. It’s estimated that humans have between 20,000 and 25,000 genes. We all have two copies of a gene, one from our mothers and the other from dad. 

Most genetic material is the same amongst the human population. However, there are some slight variations from person to person, which is what gives us our unique physical features. 

What is the definition of genetic? The genetic definition is this: the study of heredity. 

Genetic scientists study people’s genes and see what makes them unique. They are also able to identify certain genetic characteristics that can contribute to physical and mental illnesses.

Why You Should Care About Genetics – The Physical Impact

Through the study of genetics, we’ve come to learn why we have a certain eye or hair color. But genetics goes way beyond our physical features.

Our Physical Health Is Often Determined by Genetics. In fact, certain diseases are classified as genetic diseases. Whenever a person has an abnormality in their genes, it can result in disease. Oftentimes, these abnormalities are passed along from one generation to another. 

Some genetic diseases you may have heard of include: 

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Huntington’s disease
  • A type of epilepsy
  • A type of dementia.

There are four different types of genetic diseases: single gene inheritance, multifactoral inheritance, chromosome abnormalities, and mitochondrial inheritance.

Of these, those that fall under multifactoral inheritance might sound the most familiar. They include: 

  • Heart disease and high blood pressure
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Obesity
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes. 

That’s right – some people have a genetic predisposition toward diabetes. 

Can Anything Be Done About Serious Genetic Health Conditions?

If a disease like diabetes runs in your family, you may be worried that this automatically means you’re going to get it. When people have that mindset, they give up because they don’t think there’s anything they can do to avoid it. 

Actually, there are some things you can do. Just because you have a predisposition doesn’t mean you’re doomed to get a disease. There are lifestyle and environmental factors that play a role, too.

According to Diabets.org, there are two factors that need to be in play for diabetes to present in a patient. First, they need the genetic predisposition. Second, there needs to be an environment that triggers the genes.

An example of this is a set of twins, one of which has diabetes, while the other doesn’t. They both have the genetic factors that contribute to the disease. But typically, when one twin has type 1 diabetes, the other has a 50/50 chance of getting type 1 diabetes. 

It’s similar for type 2 diabetes as well – the second twin has a three in four risk of getting diabetes.  

What environmental factors contribute to diabetes? 

In type 1 it could be: 

  • Cold weather
  • A Virus
  • Whether a child was breastfed or not
  • When the child was weaned
  • The types of foods introduced in childhood.

In type 2 it could be: 

  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • An unhealthy diet.

Genes Aren’t the End-All, Be-All – You Do Have Some Control over Your Health

Having your genes tested can give you some valuable insights into your health and predisposition for certain diseases. 

This information shouldn’t make you feel like you have no control over your health and that you’re absolutely going to end up with a disease diagnosis. 

There are a lot of variables that are in play and they need to be positioned in a specific way in order for a disease to manifest. Some of those variables are in your control. 

There’s a lot you can do to stay healthy and live a vibrant life. And a lot of it revolves around lifestyle choices. Make the best choices possible and you could reduce your chances of getting certain disease.

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