It runs in the family: preventing hereditary diseases

Posted on July 11, 2018 by Guest Writer

Nature has its way of giving some people “good genes” while others make do with whatever else might run in the family. The good news is that medical knowledge enables us to defy some of the “bad genes”, greatly improving our resistance to certain hereditary conditions.

If you’d like to know how to delay or even prevent some of the most common hereditary diseases, the links below take you straight to some useful advice from medical experts.

Cancer

Some people are born with a gene mutation that puts them at greater risk of cancer. However, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of developing it yourself:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Stay physically active by including at least 30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine.
  • Drink less alcohol – this reduces your risk of cancer of the breast, lung, colon, kidney or liver.
  • Give up smoking as it’s a well-known cause of cancer.
  • Protect your skin by using sunscreen and avoiding the sun between 10am and 4pm when UVB rays are the strongest.

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High blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol

High cholesterol levels can be linked to a family history of high blood pressure. This in turn can increase your chances of heart attack or stroke. Here are some good ways to keep your cholesterol at safe levels:

  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and low in salt.
  • Exercise regularly – the NHS recommends at least 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity like cycling or power walking every week.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Limit your alcohol intake – although a glass of red wine can relax the blood vessels and reduce pressure on your heart.
  • Avoid smoking – nicotine greatly increases “bad” cholesterol levels as well as your chances of a blood clot or stroke.
  • Manage your stress levels as your body’s stress hormones narrow your blood vessels, increasing blood pressure through atherosclerosis.

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Osteoarthritis

Very much an inherited condition, osteoarthritis can often be delayed with some basic measures:

  • Maintain a healthy weight – too much pressure on weight-bearing joints like knees and hips adds strain on the cartilage that protects your joints.
  • Keep active – as little as 30 minutes, five times a week – helps your joints stay supple and strong.
  • Avoid exercise that could cause you to break or dislocate a joint such as running or weight training
  • If you have type 2 diabetes you have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis – high levels of glucose stiffen your cartilage and cause stress to your joints.

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

Having a close relative with rheumatoid arthritis can increase your chance of developing it also.

  • Exercise makes your joints stronger and less susceptible to arthritis. Your doctor or physiotherapist will help you establish the right routine that’s safe and appropriate for your fitness level.
  • Rest often so that you don’t overdo it and put undue stress on your joints when doing physical activities.
  • If you smoke, give up. Your doctor can help with advice on how to put a stop to your habit.