Skip to content

Men's Health

Are You Destined to Get Your Parents' Illnesses?

Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Feature

Have you been told you've got your father's eye color or your mother's curly hair? These physical traits are a product of genes you inherited from your parents. If your mom has heart disease and your dad has colon cancer, you might also have inherited a greater chance of getting these diseases. But don't worry, it's not a sure thing.

With conditions like cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and heart disease, your genes aren't always destiny. You can likely overcome your heredity and stay disease-free by making smarter health decisions.

Recommended Related to Men

Top Men’s Health Stories of 2008: Readers' Choice

Men apparently don’t know everything about sex, which propelled our story on sex mistakes to the runaway favorite in 2008. Eating and drinking also ranked high on readers’ to-do list. Those topics are among the most viewed men’s health stories on WebMD for 2008. 6 Sex Mistakes Men Make Virtual Sex: Everything You’re Afraid to Ask 5 Things You Didn't Know About Your Penis Enlarged Prostate: A Complex Problem Watermelon a Natural Viag...

Read the Top Men’s Health Stories of 2008: Readers' Choice article > >

Genes and Disease

Genes lead to disease in different ways. "With some diseases, it's almost certain that if you inherit that gene you'll inherit the disease. But for other diseases it's a matter of increased risk," says Soren Snitker, MD, PhD. He's an associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Some conditions, like Huntington's disease, are caused by a change to a single gene. If you have a parent with this disease, then you've got a 50-50 chance of getting it yourself.

Many other diseases, like type 2 diabetes or cancer, are caused by a combination of gene changes and lifestyle habits.

"A person can trump a lot of the inherited risk with very healthy behaviors," says Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM. He is chair of the department of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

A good example of lifestyle trumping genes comes from a study of Amish people done by Snitker and other researchers. They looked at a gene called FTO, which contributes to obesity. Amish people with the gene who exercised didn't put on weight. They were able to overcome their gene by staying active.

Trump Your Genes

Not only can you override your genes by taking good care of yourself, you could even change how they function. A growing field of research is looking at how lifestyle choices affect our genetic makeup.

Behaviors don't change the genes themselves. They change the way the genetic information is used to make the proteins that control different body functions.

Today on WebMD

man coughing
Men shouldn’t ignore.
man swinging in hammock
And how to get out it.
 
shaving tools
On your shaving skills.
muscular man flexing
Four facts that matter.
 
Food Men 10 Foods Boost Male Health
Slideshow
Thoughtful man sitting on bed
Quiz
 
Man taking blood pressure
Slideshow
doctor holding syringe
Slideshow
 

Loaded with tips to help you avoid food allergy triggers.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Condom Quiz
Quiz
thumbnail_angry_couple_in_bed
Slideshow
 
man running
Quiz
older couple in bed
Video