THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GENETICS AND HUMAN HEALTH

We have all heard of the phrase ‘it’s in your genes.’ This statement is mostly used to refer to physical appearance. You have also noticed that several members of a family will have the same eye and hair color. This is the same reason why a pregnant woman will often be asked a lot of questions on their family history during prenatal clinics. For instance, the doctor will want to know if there is a history of twins in the family.

The same concept applies to human health; specifically, in diseases. It is all in the genes. Diseases can be passed down from generation to generation. However, this is not to say that diseases have a single cause. It depends on several factors like life choices and the environment. Your genetics will only make you susceptible to such diseases.

In regards to the environment, studies have shown that environmental factors like the sun’s damaging ultra-violet rays can cause DNA changes in body cells exposed to it. If the body is unable to repair the cell, there is a likelihood of replication during cell regeneration.With continuous replication of such cells, an individual may develop cancer.

How genes cause problems

A gene from a parent will most likely replicate itself in a child. But there are cases where a child will be born with imperfect genes due to gene mutation. As such, some will become better than the original while others will become problematic. In case the latter occurs, individuals develop a condition known as genetic disorder.

Over the years, doctors have made use of transgenic mice in a bid to betterunderstand the causes of genetic disorders in humans. Such disorders are blamed for congenital birth defects and other diseases like asthma, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease.However, these researches have so far been inconclusive. As I stated earlier, these complex diseases are caused by genetics, environment, lifestyle and other factors that are yet to be identified.

Some mutations that happen in the course of someone’s life can lead to conditions such as skin cancer. These are known as acquired mutations. However, such mutations are not hereditary.

Apart from incorrectly mutated genes, below are two other genes abnormalities that are known to cause genetic disorders.

  • Extra or fewer gene copies: Some children will be born with only1 copy of a gene. Others will have 2 copies, one from each parent while others will even have 3 or more copies of the same gene.This is a condition known as copy number variation.These variations are what cause diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease in children.
  • Chromosome abnormalities:Genes are stored in chromosomes. Normally, a person will have 23 pairs of chromosomes, which makes a total of 46 of them. If a chromosome is broken or a person is born with more or fewer pairs of chromosomes, they automatically suffer problems with their growth and development. They also experience challenges with their overall bodily functions.

In one way or the other, many of these diseases and conditions that people sufferfrom are related to genetics.As much as these disorders are complex, there are cases where mutations occur in a single gene.Such cases are, however, very rare.

How to ensure better health

Having a defective gene in the body is not a death sentence. This is because genes alone rarely cause diseases. The environment we live in and how we go about our livesis what pulls the trigger.

There are a few things you could do to ensure better health whether or not you have genes that make you susceptible to some diseases. Below is a round-up:

  • Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet: Cut down on sugar and alcohol. Consume more fruits and vegetables.
  • Engage in physical exercise: If you are not on any exercise routine, start small. Do simple exercises like walking then work up to at least 30 minutes of cardio three to five times a week.
  • Do not smoke: If you smoke, see your doctor and let him advise you on the best quitting approach. If you do not smoke, do not be in a room where people are smoking. Try as much as possible to avoid secondhand smoke.
  • See a doctor: If you have conditions such as blood pressure, get medication to regulate it. Go for regular checkups. Let your doctor monitor any ailments or conditions you may have.

Know your family history: Get to know if there is a history of any condition in your family. If any, communicate them to your doctor for further assistance.

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