Knowledge Is Power When It Comes To Your Genes

You can choose to eat nutritious foods and get plenty of exercise to help maintain good health, but there’s one thing you can’t choose: your genes. And your family’s history plays an important role in determining your risk for certain health issues.

Protect your ticker early

Your family tree is especially important when it comes to the No. 1 killer among women, heart disease, which can start as early as the teen-age years. Your own risk is significantly increased if cardiac disease runs in the family: According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a woman is more likely to develop heart disease if her mother or sister experienced a heart attack before age 65.

Ask your family about diabetes

Finding out your risk for diabetes also involves family matters. The American Diabetes Association reports that a woman whose mother or father has diabetes has up to a 40 percent chance of developing the disease later in life. Both parents diagnosed with diabetes? Your risk jumps up to 45 percent.

What about breast cancer?

The American Cancer Society estimates that while heritage, age and even late menopause can be factors in developing breast cancer, 5 to 10 percent of cases actually stem from mutations in the inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. Your risk is also higher if a first-degree relative (mother, sister or daughter) has been diagnosed with the disease.