Family history is the best indicator of your health risks

Your family history is one of your best clues about your risk of developing many common illnesses, including mental disorders.

family-with-boys-on-a-boatFor example, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia tend to run in families.

At this time, no type of genetic testing can tell you whether or not you will develop mental illnesses. Not enough is known about which gene variations contribute to them, or the degree to which other factors contribute.

For now, your family history may be your best indicator. For example, studies show that if you have a close relative with bipolar disorder, you have about a 10 percent chance of getting a mood disorder, such as bipolar disorder or depression.

Now consider what the gene variations scientists have linked to mental disorders, so far, can tell you about your risk. Even the variations with the strongest ties raise the risk by only very small amounts. Knowing that you have one of these variations won’t tell you nearly as much about your risk as your family history can.

Family history also provides a good clue about your risk of rare diseases that can be detected through genetic testing. If one of these rare diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, runs in your family, your risk is likely very high.

If a disease runs in your family, your healthcare provider can tell you if it’s the kind of illness that can be detected through genetic testing at this time. Your provider can help you make decisions about whether to be tested and can help you understand test results and their implications.

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