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Health and your genes

Health and your genes
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Our genes have a huge impact on our health – so paying attention to your mother’s and father’s wellness can tell you a lot about what may be in store for you. Take a look at these hereditary health traits, many of which may surprise you.

Pimply skin

Pimply skin
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Acne is the most common skin disorder – up to 80 percent of us will suffer from it at some point in our lives. And it turns out we can often thank our parents: The development of painful rashlike – cystic – pimples has both environmental and genetic components. If you have adult acne and haven’t had success treating it with over-the-counter regimens and lifestyle changes, see a dermatologist. Prescription treatments have come a long way since you were in high school.

Cavities

Cavities
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Tooth issues do run in families, according to the experts at Delta Dental. Some of that may be due to diet or bad habits like skipping flossing, but there’s also a strong genetic influence. Mutations or differences in a gene known as DEFB1 are linked to a greater risk of cavities as an adult.

Follow these tips for healthy white teeth. 

Fainting

Fainting
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If one of your parents has a history of unexplained fainting or losing consciousness during times of extreme emotion or after exercise, take note: Those are all symptoms of a heart-rhythm disorder known as long QT syndrome. The syndrome is sometimes caused by a genetic mutation that could then be passed down to you. Other potential causes include certain medications and electrolyte imbalances. Before you head over to the doctor’s office to uncover your genetic makeup, it’s important to find out what your doctor isn’t telling you about genetic testing.

Make sure you know what to do when someone faints. 

Moles

Moles
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People with more than 50 to 100 moles are at an increased risk for melanoma, and the “risk is even higher when there is a family history of atypical moles or melanoma,” says Lisa Anthony, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and a dermatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital. An atypical mole is an unusual-looking mole that has some of the characteristics of melanoma, such as dark colour or irregular borders, but is not actually cancerous. “‘Mole-y’ people are also at risk for other, more common skin cancers such as basal cell skin cancer,” says Dr. Anthony.

Bad heartburn

Bad heartburn
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Chronic heartburn or reflux may be about more than eating too much spicy food – it could be a result of hereditary allergies. “Eosinophilic esophagitis is an allergy condition that can run in families,” says Princess Ogbogu, MD. The condition is a mouthful to pronounce, but it basically means that people have chronic inflammation in the oesophagus that may feel like – or even cause – acid reflux. Barrett’s oesophagus, a condition linked to reflux and oesophageal cancer, may also be genetic: Studies have pinpointed three different genetic mutations related to the disease.

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Seasonal allergies

Seasonal allergies
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Allergies do run in families. “Generally, food and environmental allergies are genetic, although there are definitely external environmental factors that can make allergies or asthma worse, such as viral infection, tobacco smoke, living with allergens such as cats, dogs, rodents, or cockroaches,” says Dr. Ogbogu. One allergy that doesn’t typically run in families? Medication allergies, she says. “People often worry that if one family member has an allergy to a medication, others will have it. But this isn’t necessarily the case.” Still, she says, “it is important to provide your family history so your provider can determine if you should have additional testing for allergies.”

Follow these tips to survive allergy season. 

A traumatic childhood

A traumatic childhood
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While you can’t “inherit” trauma itself, there is a cycle of trauma that can repeat in families, says psychiatrist Samar McCutcheon, MD. “Our goal is to reduce the likelihood that an abused child will go on to become an abuser. There are a significant number of mental health conditions that occur more often in patients who experience trauma in their childhood. Breaking the cycle of trauma could indirectly reduce the next generation’s risk of developing some of these mental health conditions.”

Discover 12 things your birth order reveals about you. 

Sensitive skin

Sensitive skin
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Do certain materials, soaps or scents make your mum’s or dad’s skin break out, flake or itch? “A tendency toward allergies or hypersensitivities can run in families – this is referred to as atopy,” says Dr. Anthony. “Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is itchy, red and flaky skin rash caused by an immune hypersensitivity. Keratosis pilaris – rough, bumpy skin commonly found on the backs of arms – can be related to eczema and is also typically inherited.” Eczema can crop up anywhere on the body. Prescription medications can help in severe cases.

Here are 9 things you need to know about eczema (especially if you have it). 

Learning disabilities

Learning disabilities
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These tend to run in families, although experts aren’t sure whether it’s genetics or environmental factors at play. People with learning disabilities are usually of average intelligence or above, but they may have issues with reading, concentration, or language caused by the way their brains process information. That said, with proper treatment and strategies, many people with learning disabilities can flourish in school and their careers. Parents of adopted children can use genetic testing to discover whether their children are genetically predisposed to develop a learning disability.

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