Knowing Your Ancestry Can Help You Make Smarter Choices About Your Health

Do you know your family history? What about your extended family history, your ancestry? You probably know your parent’s and sibling’s health history, and maybe a bit about your grandparents. That’s good information, and so is understanding the health conditions that came before.

Your distant past helps you determine if you’re genetically at risk for certain diseases. For example, if some of your ancestors were Ashkenazi Jewish, you are genetically predisposed to Tay-Sachs disease. If your Hispanic or Asian, you may be at risk for thalassemia. By researching this information and sharing it with your doctor, you’re identifying what your genetic predispositions may be and how to effectively test and treat them.

Discussing Ancestry with Your Doctor

Before you can identify predispositions, you must learn about your ancestry. There’s a couple ways to do this. Your doctor can order a DNA test, or you can order one from a reputable provider. The DNA test will tell you some things, but not who you’re directly descended from. You can use a service to find this information. For example, you can research African American ancestry using newspaper and military records.

Once you have the information you need, you can submit that to your doctor. Your doctor may order additional tests, such as those that are more specific to your genetic predispositions. If you’re genetically predisposed to certain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, your doctor may make recommendations about your diet or ask that you begin a regimen of yoga and meditation.

How Ancestry Affects Your Lifestyle

What you learn from your ancestry can tell you more than just your genetic predispositions. It has far reaching health benefits, such as identifying what your dietary needs are. If your ancestors were from the north, where the climate is very cold, you may require a protein-rich diet. People from the south, such as along the equator, need more carbohydrates. If you’re struggling to lose or gain weight, your ancestry can help you identify the perfect balance of carbs, fats, and proteins.

As far as exercise is concerned, your ancestry may point to some concerning matters, such as a long history of obesity. Identifying these risks will help you build a plan and routines. It may even inspire you; perhaps there was an athlete in the family.

Your ability to take certain prescriptions may be affected by your ancestry. It’s called pharmacogenetics, and it could save your life. The Cleveland Health clinic warns that some people of Asian descent cannot take the anticonvulsant drug carbamazepine because it could cause a fatal reaction. “Of course, these drug reactions may still occur in people who are not Asian, and they may not occur in all people of Asian descent. But knowing makes a difference in how your doctor approaches prescriptions.”

As far as your lifestyle is concerned, you don’t have to live by the customs of the past. They should only provide insight and inspiration to help you lead a healthier life. Ancestry sort of assesses your risk, and that is a good tool for both you and your doctor. If something is wrong, it’s better to know sooner rather than later. And you can reduce adverse activities if they’re known to increase your risk.

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