How are diseases inherited

Inherited diseases from the mother

Inherited diseases from the mother

Simple questions within the family often clarify whether the daughter carries inherited diseases. Partly better than a genetic test. Even an increased risk doesn't have to mean anything. Because you can do something yourself: take countermeasures!

Like books in a library, our genetic information is neatly sorted in each cell. There are 46 big volumes - the chromosomes. Your chapters are the genes, more than 30,000. Sometimes a “misprint” appears in a chapter. A mutated risk gene is created that can play a key role in the development of the disease. E.g. in the case of breast cancer or an allergy. However, a single error in the gene code usually only increases the risk slightly. It only rises noticeably when there are several. Risk genes can be inherited within a family, for example from mother to daughter. At the age of 45 or 50, the question usually arises whether it applies to you. Fortunately, there is only a 4–10 percent risk of repetition.

Another good news: Research has found that living a healthy lifestyle can turn off mutated genes. In order to further reduce the risk, a genetic test can clarify whether there is a risk. To do this, a human geneticist creates a risk profile for the patient. She learns how likely she is to get an illness. And the specialist develops an individual early detection program that z. B. recommends how often she should have a colonoscopy. vital explains in which diseases this is possible, when genetic counseling brings clarity, which way of life protects. And which questions to ask mother, grandma or sister help with the genetic search for traces.

Inherited Diseases: MYOME

"Did you and Grandma have to deal with a strong rule?"

  • Your risk The benign growths in the uterine muscles not only stimulate estrogen, but also a hereditary disposition: the daughters of mothers with fibroids have a 3 times higher risk.
  • Important checks If the period is consistently heavy, a gynecologist's palpation examination and vaginal sonography will show whether fibroids are present.
  • That protects you The latest studies show that being overweight triples the risk of fibroids. Ideal: a BMI of 20 to 25; prefer chicken or turkey, instead of beef and little sausage, but a lot of green vegetables.

Inherited Diseases: Heart Failure

"Did Grandma, like you, secretly take heart pills?"

  • Your risk There is a genetic predisposition to primary heart failure. A study by the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm: If the mother has this heart muscle disease, the daughter inherits a risk of 43 percent.
  • Important checks Even if there is only one case of heart failure in the family, first-degree relatives should have an EKG and heart ultrasound every two years, even without complaints, advises the German Society for Cardiology.
  • That protects you Swim or walk 150 minutes a week, 3 times a week cold water fish with a lot of omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel, eat 3 tablespoons of olive oil daily, keep your waist circumference below 80 cm if possible.

Inherited Diseases: GREEN STAR

"Why have you been taking eye drops for as long as I can remember?"

  • Your risk If a first-degree relative (e.g. mother, sister) has glaucoma, the risk is about 6 times higher. Other factors: age over 40, severe myopia.
  • Important checks From the age of 40, check intraocular pressure and optic nerve every two years; if you have restricted visual field and blind spots, see a doctor straight away.
  • That protects you According to a recent US study from January 2016, kale lowers the risk by 28 percent, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, chard, rocket or lamb's lettuce by 18 percent. Their nitrate content improves the disturbed drainage of the aqueous humor.

Inherited Diseases: Varicose Veins

"Do you often have big ankles after sitting or standing for long periods of time?"

  • Your risk According to the German Vein League, 17.2 percent of the cause is familial. But there is no gene mutation.
  • Important checks If the ankles are swollen in the evening and calf cramps are annoying at night, a phlebologist should perform a vein function diagnosis (e.g. Doppler sonography). Especially with visible varicose veins and spider veins.
  • That protects you Put your feet up more often, rock your feet at the desk every 30 minutes, wear compression stockings (available in pharmacies), cold watering on the calves or treading water, avoid constipation.

Inherited Diseases: BREAST CANCER

"Didn't grandma even have breast surgery when you were a young girl?"

  • Your risk An inherited gene mutation is present in only 5 percent - from mother to daughter to granddaughter. In these high-risk families, the risk of breast cancer is 80 percent and that of ovarian cancer is 40 percent, especially if tumors occur under the age of 50.
  • Important checks For high-risk patients aged 25 and over, every 6 months palpation of the breast and ovaries, ultrasound of the breast, MRI every 12 months, possibly mammography, genetic counseling, possibly genetic test.
  • That protects you The German Cancer Research Center advises: Cycling for 30 minutes 3 times a week, which reduces the risk by a third; Drink a maximum of two glasses of wine per week.

Inherited Diseases: ALLERGIES

"How about you and dad with an allergy?"

  • My risk If both parents are allergic, the risk for the children is 50 to 60 percent, according to the German Allergy and Asthma Association. Both have the same allergy, in 60 to 80 percent.
  • Important checks Whether an allergy is present and which allergens (e.g. pollen) trigger it are shown e.g. B. Inhalation, skin tests. Antibodies to an allergy reaction can be measured in the blood.
  • That protects you A desensitization combats the cause, prevents the "floor change" in the bronchi. Whether by syringe or tablet: allergens are dosed higher and higher in order to get the body used to the trigger.

Inherited Diseases: COLON CANCER

"Have you ever been discovered with intestinal polyps?"

  • My risk If the doctors have found this precancerous stage and another family member and a first-degree relative (e.g. parents, siblings) of them have developed colon cancer, there is a hereditary genetic change - as in every 20th colon cancer patient. The risk of developing the disease increases to up to 80 percent, and at the same time that of carcinoma in the uterus increases to 60 percent.
  • Important checks Genetic counseling plus a genetic test provide information. In the case of previous exposure, go for a colonoscopy every year - for first-degree relatives 10 years before the age at which they are sick (including polyps).
  • That protects you Eat a lot of grains and pulses but little red meat, drink two cups of coffee a day. According to a Dutch study, ASA reduces the formation of polyps, especially from the age of 50 (take 75 mg daily under medical supervision).

Inherited Diseases: NEURODERMITIS

"Have you always had such rough, flaky knees?"

  • Your risk If one parent is affected, the risk is 20 to 40 percent. But only predisposition is inherited. Whether and when atopic dermatitis breaks out depends on other factors, in particular on environmental influences.
  • Important checks Blood test (for immunoglobulin E), skin test for a strong immune reaction to allergens.
  • That protects you Prevents flare-ups: clean skin with pH-neutral syndets without additives, rub in with moisturizing evening primrose oil, soften laundry with fabric softener (without preservatives, fragrances), 20 min. Progressive muscle relaxation daily, eat a lot of fish oil, for example. B. tuna, sardine, eel.

Inherited Diseases: DEPRESSIONS

"Tell me, mom, why do you sometimes withdraw so quietly?"

  • Your risk Depression occurs in families. If first-degree relatives are affected, the risk of depression is 15 percent. Trigger factors: stressful events (e.g. separation, job loss) to which those affected react more sensitively than others.
  • Important checks With persistent inner emptiness, sadness, feelings of fear, sleep problems, a psychiatrist or neurologist can diagnose depression using a standardized questionnaire (e.g. WHO), possibly also with a stress hormone test.
  • That protects you Keep stress hormones low with mindfulness meditation, 3 to 4 times a week for 15–20 minutes. B. on the treadmill or exercise bike. Sleep for 7–8 hours a day, write a realistic to-do list (protects against being overwhelmed), eat a lot of magnesium (soy, beans), folic acid (avocado, lentils).


"When did you notice that your hair was getting thinner?"

  • Your risk In 80 percent of women, the head in the vertex and vertebral area becomes bald due to a genetic change in the follicle. It is passed on from mother to daughter at twice the risk.
  • Important checks Thin more than 100 hairs per day for 3–4 weeks, go to the hair clinic. Dermatologists check nutrient or hormone deficiencies, and perform scalp and hair root analyzes.
  • That protects you Hair needs amino acids, proteins, B vitamins, iron, zinc. This is supplied by nuts, vegetable oils, barley, potatoes, mushrooms, parsley, broccoli, natural yoghurt and dried fruits. Medically effective: tincture or foam with minoxidil (in pharmacies).

Crack the code

The secret language of risk statistics

70 percent higher, 3 times bigger ... Statements like these are scary at first, but are usually not that bad at all. We explain what's behind the numbers

Statistical figures on disease risks are difficult to classify. Most of us are quickly duped by them and feel insecure. Above all, high percentages or comparative figures such as B. "increased by 100 percent" or "twice as often" suggest an enormously increased risk of disease. But what does that mean exactly? Let us again visualize the difference between relative and absolute numbers using the example from just now: A study shows that one in 5000 women gets a certain disease. In the follow-up study, two out of 5000 fall ill: twice as many. That sounds scary, no question about it. But expressed in absolute numbers, there is only one more women out of 5,000. And that corresponds to an absolute increase from 0.02 percent to 0.04 percent. Also a doubling, but there is no panic. Both numbers, the absolute and the relative, should be taken into account when assessing the risk. But don't let this jumble of numbers and terminology drive you crazy. If in doubt, ask your doctor for his professional and factual assessment. Rather understand the values ​​for what they really are: Your great opportunity to turn your life around in such a way that you can keep the known risk factors as low as possible.


A DNA analysis is particularly useful when a hereditary disease is based on the mutation of a single gene (e.g. BRCA1, breast cancer). The genetic test z. B. from saliva indicates the likelihood of falling ill or passing on the gene. Usually the cash registers pay.


In a one-hour conversation (health insurers usually pay), human geneticists take a family history, create a genetic tree over four generations, and calculate the risk of birth. If it is high, do they offer a genetic test, plan your personal preventive measures.