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Disease- It Runs in the Family

Disease- It Runs in the Family


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Have you got your dad’s nose and mom’s smile? Your family to a certain extent determines your physical looks as well as your health. This is why your doctor sometimes asks you about your family history during check-ups.


Does your family suffer from any of these conditions? If so, you should take note.


Obesity and Diabetes

Obesity and Type 2 diabetes depend largely on your eating habits and activity levels. However, genes also play a main role on your hunger level, sugar processing, and fat storage.1,2. Ethnicity is also important. For example, South East Asians are more likely to develop diabetes.3


Stroke and Heart Disease

Heart diseases are generally caused by fat circulating in the blood. Genes play a big role in fat deposits. If you have a history of heart diseases in your family, you should pay special attention to your heart condition as well. The good news is that according to a recent study, people with genes linked to heart disease can minimise the risk through eating plenty of fruit and vegetables.4



Some cancers (such as bowel and breast cancer) contain a genetic link.5 However, survey says smoking is more likely to cause cancer than inherited genes. Almost 20% of cancer cases can be linked to smoking.6 Moreover, cancer can be avoided by practising a healthy lifestyle. If you eat a lot of vegetables and fruits, limit your salt intake, and consume less of red and processed meat, you can reduce such chances.7


There are genes that can affect your chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease. However, if someone in your family develops Alzheimer’s after 65 years of age, your risk is not really high — it’s just a bit higher than if you had no case of dementia in your family.8  On the other hand, smoking plays a bigger role in causing Alzheimer’s and smokers’ risk is twice as much as non-smokers’.8 Other risk causing factors are high cholesterol and blood pressure.8


Habits Matter

Sometimes diseases that run in the family are not caused by genes but because of family habits. For example, if you’re a smoker, your teenage kids are thrice more likely to start smoking.9


Reduce your risks

If you’re worried about certain diseases that run in your family, talk to your doctor. While you cannot do anything about your genes, you can always change your habits to stay safe. On a general note, if you have a balanced nutritious diet, maintain a moderate activity level, and keep away from booze and cigarettes, you’ll be safe from many diseases, even if they run in your family.



  1. ‘Lean gene’ increases risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Diabetes UK. Visited 10 March 2016.
  2. Loos RJF, Kilpeläinen TO, M Zillikens C et al. (2011) Genetic variation near IRS1 associates with reduced adiposity and an impaired metabolic profile. Nature Genetics doi:10.1038/ng.866
  3. South Asian diabetes risk. British Heart Foundation. Visited 10 March 2016.
  4. Do R, Xie C, Zhang X, Männistö S, Harald K, et al. (2011) The effect of chromosome 9p21 variants on cardiovascular disease may be modified by dietary intake: evidence from a case/control and a prospective study. PLoS Medicine, 9.
  5. Cancer risk. McMillan Cancer support.  Visited 10 March 2016.   
  6. Smoking and cancer. Cancer Research UK. Visited 10 March 2016.
  7. Diet and cancer. Cancer Research UK. Visited 10 March 2016.
  8. Am I at risk of developing dementia? Alzheimer’s Society. Visited 10 March 2016.
  9. Passive smoking. Cancer Research UK. Visited 10 March 2016.

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© Cigna 2017

Information provided in this article is intended for health and fitness purposes only and is not intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions, or in the cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease (see Terms & Conditions for details). Any health-related information found in this article is available only for your interest and should not be treated as medical advice. Users should seek any medical advice from a physician, especially before self-diagnosing any ailment or embarking on any new lifestyle or exercise regime. Any information contained in this article may not be suitable, accurate, complete or reliable. Cigna accepts no responsibility for the content or accuracy of information contained on external websites or resources, or for the security and safety of using them. "Cigna" and the "Tree of Life" logo are registered trademarks of Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. in the United States and elsewhere, licensed for use. All products and services are provided by or through operating subsidiaries, and not by Cigna Corporation.

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