Almost 4% of the world’s population is affected by one of more than 80 different autoimmune diseases.
The most common of these diseases–in which the body’s immune system malfunctions and begins attacking healthy cells–include type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, and scleroderma.
Although no one wants to live life feeling paranoid about developing one of these conditions, it’s important to be aware of the risk factors for such diseases.
Knowing if you’re at risk encourages you to stay vigilant in noticing signs and symptoms. The sooner you’re able to receive a diagnosis, the sooner you can begin treating the condition.
Here are four factors that elevate your chances of developing an autoimmune disease…
If you, like 49.6% of the world’s population, have a double X chromosome, you have a higher chance of developing an autoimmune condition.
Autoimmune diseases tend to affect women 75% percent of the time, and this percentage can rise with certain autoimmune conditions. For example, 9 out of 10 people who have lupus are women.
Unfortunately, autoimmune diseases as a whole are among the leading causes of death for young and middle-aged women.
Although the reason for this is still to be determined with certainty, some scientists speculate that the fact that women have more enhanced immune systems may make them more vulnerable to autoimmune disorders.
Additionally, women’s hormones may play a role in the increased chance of developing the condition.
African American, American Indian, and Latino people have a higher risk of developing an autoimmune condition than Caucasian people.
For example, Hispanic Americans are twice as likely to have the nonimmune type 2 diabetes as non-Hispanic Caucasians of a similar age (source).
Additionally, lupus is more prevalent among individuals of African American and Latino ethnicities.
Although there is this heightened prevalence and severity among ethnic groups, the reasons for these disparities remain unknown.
#3: Family History
As with many physical conditions, autoimmune diseases and disorders can be inherited.
If you haven’t already, take the time to ask your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles about their health histories.
You can determine what symptoms you should watch for when it comes to your own health and body if you know what they have dealt with.
That said–while diseases can be passed down from parent to child, it doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get the disorders that your mother or father may suffer from.
#4: Exposure to Environmental Toxins
Environmental aggravators can become risk factors in the development of autoimmune diseases.
The most common preventable aggravators of autoimmune diseases include infections, diet, smoking, and heavy alcohol consumption.
The good news is that many of these environmental toxins are preventable, and it’s important to take the time and energy to remove them from your surroundings and lifestyle.
Although these four factors elevate your risk for autoimmune conditions, identifying with one or more won’t always mean you’ll develop one of these diseases.
What’s important is maintaining awareness of what’s happening physically in your body and seeking a doctor’s advice and consultation once you feel it’s necessary.
Speaking of symptoms–you may be curious to learn about the exact warning signs for autoimmune conditions. Here are three common symptoms of autoimmune diseases to watch for.