During recent years, genetic testing has become a popular option for anyone interested in learning more about who they are. You can learn everything from your ancestral history to whether looking at the sun makes you sneeze.
But an added benefit of genetic testing goes beyond learning about your ancestors or quirks. Genetic testing also has the potential to improve your overall health, helping men and women catch health conditions earlier on before they become serious problems.
We all want to live a long, healthy, vibrant life. Unfortunately, in the past, there hasn’t been a way to determine whether an individual is at a higher risk of developing certain diseases. Genetic testing is a way individuals can take proactive steps toward preserving their health as they age.
That said, there are some misconceptions about what genetic testing truly reveals. Below, we’ll explore what you can learn about your health from your genes, as well as what you can’t.
What Your Genes Can Tell You About Your Health
1. Which Conditions You Have A Genetic Predisposition Toward
When you see a doctor for problems like fatigue, gut issues, or pain, one of the first things they will likely ask you is whether someone in your family has had a disease related to your symptoms.
Family history is extremely important for determining whether health problems may be minor issues or something serious, and this is because genes for certain conditions can be passed down from parents to children. They can even skip generations, causing a grandchild to develop the disease of a grandparent or great-grandparent.
Many conditions can be passed down through genes—heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes, just to name a few. So what should you look out for? According to researchers, the key features of a family history that may increase risk are:
- Diseases that occur at an earlier age than expected (10 to 20 years before most people get the disease)
- Disease in more than one close relative
- Diseases that are not common for a certain gender (for example, breast cancer in a male)
- Certain combinations of diseases within a family (for example, breast and ovarian cancer, or heart disease and diabetes)
Genetic testing can help determine whether you have a genetic predisposition for common conditions. If a test reveals you do have the gene, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have the condition associated with it.
If you have a higher risk or someone in your family has a condition, you can take steps to manage your health. Exercise, diet, and lifestyle changes can potentially reduce the severity of serious health problems—or even prevent them entirely.
2. Which Types Of Diseases You Have A Higher Risk Of Developing
Your genes don’t just tell you if you’re at risk for a specific condition. They can also tell you if you could develop multiple diseases in the same family.
For instance, if you test positive for the gene HLA-B27, you have a relative risk for developing certain autoimmune disorders such as ankylosing spondylitis, Sjogren’s syndrome, psoriasis, and reactive arthritis. HLA-B27 is a specific type of protein that contributes to immune system dysfunction. About 1 in 4 people with the HLA-B27 gene develop autoimmune diseases.
Two other genes that fall in this group are BRCA1 and BRCA2. These two genes can demonstrate an increased risk of various types of cancer. BRCA2 is associated with an increased risk for prostate cancer, and both genes are associated with an increased risk for ovarian cancer and breast cancer.
It’s important to remember that just because a test reveals that you have any of these genes doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop any associated conditions. There are many people who test positive for HLA-B27, BRCA1, and BRCA2 but don’t have any problems with autoimmune disorders or cancer.
What Your Genes Can't Tell You About Your Health
1. How Healthy You Will Be In The Future
As mentioned above, while your genes can tell you the diseases you may be at risk for it’s difficult to predict with complete confidence whether you will or won’t develop those diseases. Only a small number of diseases are the result of a genetic mutation alone. Most diseases are a result of both your genes and your environment.
Environmental factors include diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, tobacco use, exposure to sunlight, and exposure to toxins. They are the choices you make every day: whether you eat fast food or cook at home, whether you smoke, even whether you take the elevator or the stairs.
People who don’t have a genetic predisposition to disease can still develop one if they follow an unhealthy lifestyle. In the same way, following a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of chronic illnesses, even those you are predisposed toward.
These are some of the most important environmental factors that can play a significant role in your long-term health:
- Chronic, ongoing stress has been tied to many health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression. That’s why stress management is key to living a long, healthy life. When you find yourself stressed, try taking a walk, talking to a counselor, deep breathing, or meditation.
- Cigarette smoking can cause more than 10 types of cancer, including those of the lung, kidney, liver, and colon. It’s also linked to heart disease, stroke, and other serious conditions.
- When you’re outside for more than 30 minutes, be sure to put on plenty of sunscreen. Sunscreen protects your skin from damaging UV rays, which can cause melanoma and aggravate certain autoimmune diseases.
- Obesity is tied to many health problems, including sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancers, heart disease, and osteoarthritis. If you struggle to lose weight, try to eat a diet low in carbohydrates and exercise at least three times a week. Certain peptides can also help you lose weight.
Get A Comprehensive Health Program Based On Your Genes & Your Lifestyle
If you want to live a full, healthy, vibrant life, having your genes tested is a good place to start. It can help you determine what conditions you are at risk for and what additional steps you may need to take to lessen your chances of getting that condition.
Once you know your genetic makeup, you can make the best choices every day to protect your future. If you are at higher risks of cancer, you can get tested more frequently and avoid carcinogens. If you have a family history of diabetes, you can eat balanced meals and manage your weight. If you test positive for known mutation, you can meet with a genetic counselor and monitor your body for symptoms or undergo further testing.
The steps you take now ensure you get the most out of what’s next, and Matrix Age Management can provide you with a health strategy so you know exactly what steps to take.
Our Comprehensive Health Program starts with in-depth diagnostic testing, including genetic testing, to evaluate your health and potential risk factors. Based on your results, our team of medical experts will provide you with simple lifestyle changes to make life good again.
You may not be able to predict the future of your health. But with our Comprehensive Health Program, you can feel confident knowing you’re doing everything you can to live a longer, healthier life.
To learn which treatment might be best for you, schedule a consultation.