Illustration: Richard Mia
Has anyone under 55 battled a chronic or severe illness?
It's important to know what diseases run in your family, but you also need to know when they started. A red flag is early onset, which is generally defined as ten to 20 years before serious conditions normally appear in healthy adults. A new Danish study found that people with a parent, sibling, or child who died from heart disease before age 60 were twice as likely to develop it. Alzheimer's disease is another one you should track—having a parent who developed it before age 65 means you have a 50 percent chance of inheriting a genetic mutation that may cause early onset of the disease. While Alzheimer's can't yet be prevented, it's still worth knowing if you're at risk. Scientists are constantly discovering new ways to prevent or slow the progression of certain incurable illnesses (a recent study suggests that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may prevent the development of Alzheimer's). Remember, this isn't about dwelling on mortality; it's about arming yourself with information that can improve and extend your life—and the lives of future generations.
What to Do if You Can't Talk to Your Family
We Hear You!