Analyzing your genes can provide insight into your family history and the possibility of inherited disease and traits. For better or worse, you may discover that you are – in fact – at risk for any number of scary outcomes. By understanding your results, you can take definitive actions to maintain and improve your health.
Lifestyle changes after a 23andMe test
23andMe was the first – and remains the best – DNA test for health and wellness that you can do at home. They’re the only consumer genetic testing company to receive FDA approval for health analysis without the need for a doctor. Their test is massive and provides insight on a plethora of Traits, Health predispositions, Wellness characteristics, and even Carrier status for an inherited disease.
When you receive your results, it’s understandable if you feel overwhelmed. They don’t hold back on the science, but there may be scant resources for actual suggestions on what to do. If anything appears particularly frightening – given context, family history, or lifestyle factors – consider following up with a medical professional. However, most of the outcomes will be of relatively low impact, but actionable nonetheless.
Let’s run through some of the most practical outcomes for making lifestyle changes given certain traits or dispositions.
From freckles to your opinion on cilantro, most of these traits will be nothing more than novelty or something you already know. Some are merely interesting confirmations that make you appreciate the genetic underpinnings of what makes you unique. There are a few that might warrant lifestyle changes, to the point where you may be able to avoid them altogether – even with a high ‘genetic risk.’
Bunions and Flat feet
The exact cause of bunions and flat feet is still not clear. Some maintain that it is entirely genetic, but most experts agree that footwear or injury can cause or accelerate their formation. Make sure you wear correctly fitting shoes, with ample support and room for toe movement. High-heels should be avoided at all costs, along with any pointed-toe shoe that forces your big toe out of alignment.
Fear of Public Speaking
Many people don’t realize they have a fear of public speaking until it’s too late, dumbstruck in front of a crowd. Thankfully, this skill can be mastered by anyone with some determination. Toastmasters is one of the best resources for this. Practise is the best method to prepare for any speaking engagement; those at risk may want to consider a few more trial runs before the big day.
Mosquito Bite Frequency
If you’ve lived your entire life in a city, or far from the equator, you may not realize that you’re prone to mosquito bites. Chemical repellents and full-coverage clothing should be considered before trips into the wilderness. In areas where mosquito-borne diseases are prevalent – malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus, Zika – all precautions should be applied, even a mosquito net.
23andMe Health Predispositions
These results can be unsettling and may require more attention. Keep in mind that these tests only consider your genes, ignoring your lifestyle and family history. A “high genetic risk” for a given disease may still only represent a 10% increase in your overall risk, after considering all the factors. Again, if these outcomes cause anxiety or worry – confirm with a healthcare professional.
Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is often a ‘silent killer,’ only manifesting symptoms after a significant progression of the disease. A very high genetic risk, coupled with family history, should warrant glucose tolerance testing with your doctor. Otherwise, you can make immediate lifestyle changes to limit your predisposition. Reducing sugar intake, losing excess weight, quitting smoking, and even getting adequate sleep can reduce your risk.
Bowel movements are not usually the topic of polite discussion. Many individuals with Celiac Disease are well into adulthood before diagnosis. They are either too shy to discuss their issues with a doctor, or simply unaware that their toilet habits aren’t ‘normal.’ If you’re at risk, consider eliminating or reducing gluten – found in wheat, barley, rye, and oats – in your diet for a week. If you see a significant change in your gut, follow up with a doctor.
Familial Hypercholesterolemia and Hereditary Hemochromatosis
Like diabetes, these diseases often go unnoticed until serious complications arise. Both require blood tests for confirmation, but positive family history is usually necessary to prompt your doctor into action. Thankfully, preventing these diseases can help both yourself and others. Cholesterol can be reduced by limiting your intake and increasing exercise, things your body will thank you for regardless. Hemochromatosis – excess iron in the blood – is best combatted by old-fashioned bloodletting; donating blood whenever possible keeps the disease at bay while saving lives.
This section tends to be more of an educated guess rather than a strict prediction. This is where 23andMe demonstrates just how personalized your lifestyle can be with genetic assistance. Wellness is especially amenable to lifestyle modifications, as they’re often facets of how our bodies react to our daily lives.
Your relationship with caffeine may seem innocent, but it can bring a host of complications if ignored. Sugary and fat-laden drinks can lead to obesity and diabetes; energy drinks and supplements may contain ingredients that have unknown, long-term effects on your body and mind. Pay attention to your intake to prevent a bad habit before it starts.
Deep Sleep and Sleep Movement
Sleep is essential, not only the length devoted to the activity, but also the quality. Until a bed-fellow complains, we may not even be aware that our nights are particularly active. For those prone to restless and light sleep, there are some actions you can take. Make sure your room is cold and draft-free, eliminate light or wear a sleeping mask, avoid heavy meals and screen-time before bed, and consider earplugs or even soothing sounds to help bring and maintain sleep.
Saturated Fat and Weight
Fats derived from animals – contained in meat and dairy – are usually saturated, along with some plant sources like coconut oil. These fats can be detrimental to cardiovascular health and should be limited or avoided. However, some people seem to be much more sensitive to their adverse effects. Replacing meat with fish, legumes, and plant-based proteins can help you limit your intake. For some, reducing saturated fat alone is enough to see considerable weight loss.
Lifestyle changes after a DNA test for Health
23andMe is not meant to be diagnostic. All the results should be considered in the context of your life and family history. But, the test offers a perfect chance to reflect on your current lifestyle and how you can change it for the better.
Many of these traits and predispositions may only have a minor genetic component, making your choices all the more impactful. The power of personalized medicine will eventually be found in every hospital and doctor’s office. Until then, you still have unprecedented control over your health and wellness, especially with a little guidance from 23andMe.