It’s no secret that your genes have an effect on almost everything about you. Your genes play a vital role in determining your height, skin, hair and eye colour, general build and much, much more. Perhaps most importantly, modern genetics has revealed that many diseases are also affected by our genetic makeup, a subject studied by the growing field of genetic epidemiology.
Experts suggest that there will be a time in the future – perhaps just around the corner – where any of us can take a simple and quick genetic test to reveal our disposition to certain diseases inherited from our parents. Indeed, even today you can apply for a genetic predisposition test from providers, a genetic laboratory based in Canada, to give a comprehensive overview of our genes and what diseases we might have to watch out for.
The diseases that are affected by your genetic makeup go far beyond what we usually think of as genetic disorders. Certain genes can increase the chance of developing cancer, including breast cancer, lung cancer and skin cancer. Still others can result in problems with the immune system, or cause obesity or diabetes. When we age, some genes can make it more likely that we will suffer from Alzheimer’s, arthritis or problems with our eyesight such as macular degeneration. In short, some of the deadliest killers and most damaging diseases in our modern society can be caused, in part, by the very genes within us.
Many people may be aghast at the idea of finding out that they’re at risk of a certain disease – but logically, it makes sense. Without genetic testing, you run the risk of living with complete uncertainty of what diseases you might be at risk of – leaving us totally unprepared if the worst does happen. But a simple genetic test can give us the chance to prepare and change our lifestyle to reduce the risk of developing a genetically-influenced disease.
There are now a growing number of genetic counsellors – expert practitioners who provide help and support to those who have undertaken a genetic test. They can explain the results of the test and provide advice to help you stay healthy given this new information. For example, finding out that you carried a genetic disposition for diabetes might encourage you to watch your diet a little more closely. Or if you had certain genes that are associated with lung cancer, it might be all you need to give up smoking for good. Knowledge is power, and having that knowledge about your genetic makeup can only help you in keeping fit and healthy throughout your life.