DNA Day experts answer your questions about heredity and health

20 April 2012

Above: Image © DragonImages, iStockphoto.com

Is there any relation between health and heredity?

Yes, there is definitely a relationship between heredity and health. Heredity is the genetic information that is passed on to you by your parents. This information will predetermine some aspects of you but is not set in stone, as it can be altered by environments (see the thread under biology, DNA http://www.explorecuriocity.org/Community/AskUs/tabid/287/forumid/11/threadid/209/scope/posts/Default.aspx for a better explanation). In short, studies have shown increasing that obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiovascular diseases (heart diseases), metabolic rates, cancer, and muscular build are all affected by heredity. It just means that if you have a family history of high blood pressure, the chances of you getting it is much higher. This is probably most evident in smokers where some, sometimes an entire family, in an extreme case, live near 100 without developing lung cancer despite having smoked for their entire lives! However, it is important to note that lifestyles also determine a large part of your health, which can in turn affect your genes that will be passed down. The Japanese city Okinawa is famous for its large population of centenarians (people age 100+) and studies have shown that it is attributed to their diet. Others have also shown that a Mediterranean diet is beneficial as compared to fast food. Therefore, in an ideal world where everything is the same except for genetic information, one can say that heredity determines the health of the individual.

- Answer provided by Ethan Yang

Is there any relation between health and heredity! ? Kindly elaborate covering various health related issues.

i think that there is a link between health and genetics. I think that certain populations of people can be more predisposed to certain conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, etc.

- Answer provided by Dr. Dennis McCormac

Is alzheimer's hereditary?

Alzheimer's is an example of a complex disease. There does seem from twin studies and other studies of families, that there is a genetic component. But, with a few rare exceptions, this is not a single genetic mutation that directly causes the disease, but rather a combination of many genetic risk factors that together make some individuals more at risk than others. Environmental factors also play a role in this disease, so genetics alone cannot fully predict risk.

- Answer provided by Dr. Karen Bedard

Is chronic halitosis usually passed down into offspring if both parents have it? How is it diagnosed and what can you do to treat it?

My understanding is that in most cases of this, it is not genetic but a consequence of acquired maladies such as renal failure (which can occur from a variety of reasons). Saying that, it can be associated with diabetes, which may be inherited. So the answer is probably, not usually, but it is possible. Treating it usually means addressing the underlying disease. I.e. manage the diabetes properly, and symptoms such as halitosis should dissipate.

- Answer provided by Dr. Aaron Goodarzi


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