Hey, Shorty: Genetic Traits Reveal Health Concerns

Kevin R. Campbell, MD, FACC, cardiologist at Wake Heart and Vascular Associates, reveals some surprising news regarding your genetic traits and the health problems that can stem from them down the road. Experts say you can often modify your behaviors to change your risk or keep an eye out for additional symptoms. It’s kind of like having a crystal ball into your health future.

Read on for suggestions on how to cut your risk if you possess one of the traits below, and take the advice of some lifestyle habits from the following doctors and research studies.

Red Heads
If you have natural red hair (no bottle babes!) you may be more sensitive to pain than your blond or brunette counterparts. We’re not talking breakup pain, but physical pain. A 2005 study published in the journal Anesthesiology showed a link between people with red hair and increased sensitivity to pain, like dentist visits.

Dr. David Maine, director of the Center for Interventional Pain Medicine says, “a mutation of the gene responsible for the redhead phenotype may have some central function in the way the brain modulates pain sensitivity.” If pain is a concern for you, talk to your doctor about using more numbing medication during in-depth dental procedures like filling a cavity or fixing a crown.

Finger Size
If you have a bad tempter the answer could be as close as your hand. New research published last October in the Journal of Communications revealed finger length could indicate a greater likelihood of aggressive tendencies in adults. It works like this: If the length of your index finger measures longer that your ring finger, you could be more prone to verbal outbursts.

That’s the research based off two studies of more than 600 volunteers. Dr. Allison Shaw says this research between finger ratios also shares a link to memory, athletics, dominance, and physical aggression. “This difference relates to the exposure and receptivity of the fetus to testosterone in the womb.” But, don’t go panicking if you have short fingers. Dr. Shaw says the variations are so small you can’t predict aggression alone from finger size.

If you write primarily with your left-hand your feelings of anxiousness are normal. Studies show your dominant hand indicates how your brain is wired. Psychologist and researcher Keith B. Lyle, PhD explains “There’s evidence that people who make greater use of both hands, as opposed to dominantly using a single hand all the time, experience greater interaction or cross-talk between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.”

People who can write with either hand have the best of both worlds—they can find their way out of negative situations or problem- solve through relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation.

Short People
Remember all the “shrimp” jokes you never outgrew (pun intended) from high school? Well, the joke is on your taller counterparts because a study published in the Western Journal of Medicine back in 2002 found that people with smaller bodies tend to live longer and delay being diagnosed with chronic illnesses. The research (which took more than 25 years to compile) found that Greeks, Hong Kong, Japanese, and Chinese citizens all lived longer than North Europeans and North Americans who measured taller and weighed more.

Dr. Campbell encourages everyone, no matter what their size or stature, to practice healthy habits like regular exercise and a clean diet to ward off death and disease later in life.

Looking Old
Dr. Sameer Sayeed, a cardiologist with Columbia Doctors, encourages adults to be on the lookout for signs of aging that could indicate an impending heart attack. Fatty deposits under the eyes, earlobe creases, baldness, or a receding hairline are all warning signs. Smokers in particular are more susceptible to notice changes in their skin and wrinkles on their face.

Dr. Sayeed recommends taking preventative measures with diet and exercise in addition to monitoring cholesterol levels and blood pressure frequently.

Short Arms
Weird finger size, looking old, and being of short stature. It doesn’t get much more depressing. Oh, unless you have short arms. That’s the finding from a study published in the journal Neurology back in 2008 that found women with the shortest arm spans were 1.5 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those with longer reaches. The researchers believed early nutrient deficiencies in childhood were also linked to short arm length.

Dr. Jagan Pillai, a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Brain Health, encourages individuals to get checked out by a doctor if they notice additional symptoms like mood changes or memory loss.