Wouldn’t it be nice to know what the future holds for your health?
If we had a crystal ball, we could see our elderly selves and any health problems we’d end up with.
In the spring of 2017, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the first direct-to-consumer tests that can tell you whether you’re genetically predisposed to certain diseases or health conditions.
It’s no crystal ball, but the tests could tip you off to health problems you may face down the road.
The company 23andMe began marketing the Genetic Health Risk tests, which detect genetic variants that are associated with a higher risk of developing a certain disease. The 23andMe tests search for genetic predisposition to the following:
It’s important to note that the 23andMe tests are not diagnostic tests. They can’t tell you whether you have the disease or condition, just whether your genetic makeup could make the condition more likely.
Say your report shows a predisposition for Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. What are the chances you’ll end up with that disease?
As Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in the FDA news release, “… it is important that people understand that genetic risk is just one piece of the bigger puzzle, it does not mean they will or won’t ultimately develop a disease.”
Conversely, if your report shows no genetic disposition for a certain disease, it doesn’t mean you won’t get it.
Even without knowing your genetic makeup, your family members’ health can indicate what might be in store for you. If you have family members battling cancer, for example, you might consider genetic testing to determine your risk of getting the disease. Your doctor or a certified genetic counselor can help determine your risk based on your medical history and family history. Once you know your risk, your doctor may recommend certain screenings to stay on top of your health.
Remember that our genes are one of many possible risk factors for disease. And while you can’t control your genes, you can control a number of other risk factors to help prevent disease down the road.
A healthy diet and regular exercise can go a long way toward preventing disease. Don’t wait until you’re a senior citizen to start healthy habits! Start now and you could avoid future health problems.
Kimberly McKinnon, DO, is a family medicine physician with Elmhurst Memorial Medical Group. Dr. McKinnon is accepting new patients at her Hinsdale office! View her profile and schedule an appointment online.
Learn more about genetic counseling at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
Your genes and your health: 5 FAQs about genetic testing
Why you should know your family medical history
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