Genetics Can Determine Your Asthma Risk

Did you know that your genetic makeup could have a significant impact on your breathing capacity?

Researchers from National Jewish Health, a respiratory hospital with many locations across the United States, examined genetic background data on more than 3,000 patients of African American descent. The researchers discovered that insight into a patient's genetic makeup can help doctors assess current and future lung function.

The Latest Findings                                     

In the past, researchers have relied on general racial profiles to assess health risk. But now they've discovered that looking at more personal genetic background information can create a much clearer snapshot of a patient's individual situation. The reason for the discrepancy is that many patients come from mixed backgrounds and therefore, their specific health status and risks can be much more complicated.

However, a person's genetic background can help determine their "normal" lung function range by accurately showing if asthma or other respiratory symptoms are severe. For example, someone at first glance can seem to have mild asthma, but can turn out to have a more severe case if her "normal" breathing range is too low. These findings can determine if she needs a much more aggressive treatment strategy, according to an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine in July 2010.Additionally, these links can also help health professionals make crucial decisions to determine who qualifies for disability insurance or who is a good candidate for a lung transplant.

What You Should Know

You may want to talk to your doctor about your genetic background and find out if you could be at increased risk for complications with asthma or other serious lung issues. If he thinks this is likely, he may want to use your genetic information and compare this data with your lung function test results to see what correlations exist. Your doctor may be able to use these findings to make some important treatment decisions. In addition, he may make some lifestyle recommendations based on your individual risk factors.




New England Journal of Medicine