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CommentaryGeneral SciencePreventive MedicinePrimary Care

In Our 50’s We Become Our Parents

By April 29, 2018February 21st, 2020One Comment

We are learning more and more about genetics and the details of heredity. Clearly knowledge and treatments of many of humanity’s infirmities will be even better in 10 years than they are now, and vastly better in 20 years and so forth. CRISPR technology will enable modification to our genes and possibly cure or even prevention of genetic diseases. But for now and the near future, there is a guiding thought: In our 50’s, we inevitably become our parents. Biologically speaking, at least.

Heredity Shows Up in 6th Decade

As a common example, many of the most pervasive heredity-driven medical conditions (consider high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes for starters) derive from a complex of genes that cannot and has not been clearly defined as yet. Fortunately, we have effective pharmacologically based therapy for these three conditions, providing you, as the patient, participate at least reasonably actively in the treatment. That typically includes reasonable diet, moderate exercise, and not getting clearly fat.

Why When I Am Over 50?

Most of the prevalent diseases of midlife simply don’t affect young people. High blood pressure or high cholesterol are really uncommon in those in their 20’s and 30’s for example. Diabetes, of course, occurs occasionally in young people but that is typically Type I insulin deficiency diabetes, not the garden-variety adult onset diabetes with adequate insulin production. We can see premonitions of future adult diseases in younger people, witnessed by borderline blood pressures, or high-normal blood sugar, or high-normal cholesterol values. But there is usually no demonstrated benefit from applying current drug treatments to such borderline findings in a 44-year-old. But wait 10 years and you become your mother and treatment is indicated. I have never read clear scientific explanations of the phenomenon, but I have observed thousands of such transitions.

Why Do Anything if This Is Inevitable?

The people in their 20’s through 40’s with borderline or suspicious findings on cholesterol, blood pressure, and sugar at that point are mostly related to life style and weight. Correcting your diet, staying active, becoming trim and staying there all make a difference at the margin. If your genes are strong in the wrong direction, you will still later become your parent. But at the margin, good health habits may in fact save the day and allow you to have a simpler medical life over age 50. And, to be fair, your parents probably blessed you with lots of good genes, too.


One Comment

  • Michael Kempster says:

    Choose your parents carefully. It’s the most important choice you’ll ever make.

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