Family health risk calculator allows patients to assess genetic pasts to help reduce future health risks

Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center develops health risk calculator

COLUMBUS, Ohio – What health secrets are hiding in your family tree? Experts believe one of the best predictors of our future health is the health of our blood relatives.

But many people are not making use of that information. An online tool makes it easier to assess your genetic past and potentially reduce your future risks.

After seeing multiple family members suffer from heart disease at an early age, Jerred Ziegler does what he can to stay healthy.

“I didn’t overly think about it until my dad started having the same heart problems that my grandpa had as well,” said Ziegler. “So when you start to see that trend, and especially the men in our family, you start to think about how that could impact you down the road too.”

Genetics plays a more significant role than many realize in the development of life-threatening diseases.

That may include genetic testing or additional screenings, but the first step is identifying your risk.

The family health risk calculator was developed at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.

“By understanding how your family and family history and personal history may impact genetic risk, gives you the power to make a decision about your future,” said OSU Wexner Medical Center Genetic Counselor Elizabeth Jordan.

It is the only tool of its kind to screen for both cancer and cardiac risk using an individual’s personal and family health data.

The tool then uses advanced algorithms to determine if you are at elevated risk of developing specific types of cancers and heart conditions known to have genetic ties.

The latest version also allows you to update the calculator as you gather more information.

“Say two years down the road, other family members have developed cancer or heart disease, you can go back in, add that additional information and update your assessment,” said OSU Wexner Medical Center Genetic Counselor Kevin Sweet.

The results can then be shared with your doctor.

“I think it’s super easy to maybe avoid those hard questions about your health that you don’t want to face yourself, but eventually, it’s going to catch up to you,” said Kevin Sweet. “So I think it’s super important to be proactive about it, so you don’t have those issues down the road.”

In the next few years, experts hope to expand the online tool to include risks of more diseases known to have strong hereditary components, such as brain and eye conditions.

Click here to check out the family health risk calculator.

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You can watch Kimberly Gill weekdays anchoring Local 4 News at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. and streaming live at 10 p.m. on Local 4+. She's an award-winning journalist who finally called Detroit home in 2014. Kim has won Regional Emmy Awards, and was part of the team that won the National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Newscast in 2022.