Newsweek International's May 16 issue has an interesting article written by Howard Lewine, M.D. Quoting from the article:
Elevated cholesterol is always a cause for concern, but 48-year-old Mary Carleton had special reason to worry when her LDL started inching up five years ago. Her parents had both developed coronary-artery disease at young ages, and her uncle and grand-father had died of heart attacks before the age of 50. As a practicing nurse, Carleton knew that her family history placed her at special risk, but she also knew how to offset it. When her LDL level hit 166 milligrams per deciliter despite a good diet, she and her physician agreed that she should start taking a statin drug—a step that someone with a different genealogy could have safely postponed. Thanks to her vigilance, Carleton is now in good cardiovascular health—and her kids are taking steps (exercise, lots of fruits and vegetables) to counter the family legacy.
Each of us inherits a unique set of health risks from our ancestors. For some diseases, family history is defined by a single scrap of DNA. Anyone cursed with the gene for Huntington's disease will eventually suffer the symptoms, but hereditary risks are rarely so straightforward. Most medical conditions involve multiple genes, which get passed along in different combinations. As a general rule, having a first- degree relative with heart disease, asthma, osteoporosis or type 2 diabetes doubles your own risk. When two or more cases occur in the same immediate family, the odds increase four-fold or more. The same pattern holds for cancers of the breast, colon and prostate. Yet none of these conditions is inevitable, even in people at high risk. With a detailed knowledge of your family medical history, you can often take the steps needed to protect yourself.
The full story is much longer and should be required reading by all genealogists. You actually can save your own life and perhaps the lives of some of your loved ones. You can read the article at http://msnbc.msn.com/id/7775067/site/newsweek/