Medical questionnaires always ask about family history because certain illnesses run in families. While many factors contribute to clusters of disease development, a genetic component may also be at play. The strength of that connection depends upon many variables, from the type of disease and the gene involved to much broader considerations such as lifestyle, environment and, of course, the experience of previous generations. We now know that most chronic diseases are not as driven by genes as we once thought — one study concluded that overall risk of genes determining whether you develop a specific disease is less than five percent. However, how your genes react to their environment — influences like diet, physical activity and exposure to toxins — can be linked to whether you will develop a chronic illness. This process is known as gene expression. Understanding how it works helps to put you in the driver’s seat when managing your health.
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