WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AT RISK?
If a certain disease runs in your family, you may be at risk. To be at risk for a particular disease means you are likely to have it, but you can possibly prevent it. For this reason, it's important to keep track of your family medical history. If you know whether you're at risk for developing a common disease, you can learn how to protect yourself.
Most common diseases result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. We each inherit from our parents genetic factors that make us more or less susceptible to developing a particular disease. But our overall health is also a product of our environment, and can be influenced by the choices we make.
Children, parents, and grandparents often share similar health problems. If a particular disease runs in your family, you may have inherited factors that put you at risk.
These factors are passed down from parent to child by way of genes. All humans have the same genes, but the information within each gene may differ slightly from person to person.
Our genes are encoded in helical DNA molecules. Take the Tour of the Basics to learn more about DNA and genes.
Having one or more close relatives with a medical condition.
Having a relative diagnosed with a condition at an early age (typically before age 55).
Having a relative with a disease that is more rare in a certain gender (for example, a female with heart disease).
Having a combination of diseases that run in your family (for example, both diabetes and heart disease).
Sometimes genetic differences cause disease. In rare cases, changing a single gene is enough to cause disease.
But more often disease results from the combined effects of minor changes in multiple genes. Each gene then contributes
in a small way to the symptoms.
Because each person's genetic information is slightly different, their risk of developing these more common (and more complex) diseases will vary.
Even if you are highly at risk of developing a disease based on your family medical history, the choices you make will largely determine your fate. With healthy living, you can reduce if not neutralize these genetic risk factors and add years to your life.LEARN MORE ABOUT LIFESTYLE CHOICES
Supported by the Utah Department of Health Chronic Disease Genomics Program through Cooperative Agreement Number U58/CCU822802 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.