Can Genetic Testing Empower Your Medical Decisions?

CAN GENETIC TESTING EMPOWER YOUR MEDICAL DECISIONS?

By Dr. Karly Powell

With the rise in direct-to-consumer genetic testing, you may be struggling to understand whether you should test your genes and which test is right for you! While it’s exciting to look deeper into our bodies, many choose to stay blissfully ignorant for fear they may learn of the risks of chronic or degenerative diseases lurking in their future. Ultimately when it comes to making the decision on whether and how to test, the most important question you should be asking is: will this information help me make meaningful changes to improve health? 

Genetic testing provides a detailed roadmap of your future, revealing obstacles and roadblocks that may slow or halt your journey. This view into your future allows for proactive changes to give your body the tools needed to overcome – or even completely bypass – these obstacles. It is much easier to avoid what we know is coming rather than correct the damage after the fact, like navigating around a nail compared to fixing a flat tire. Likewise, it is easier to prevent than reverse disease-creating damage to our tissues and organs. When disease is already present, understanding the exact causative mechanism allows us to choose the most specific tool to repair the damage. An air pump will never fix the problem without plyers to first remove the nail.

Whether you are looking for preventative care or trying to reverse current symptoms, genetic testing allows for selection of the most efficient and effective tool. We can glean specific information about your individual vulnerability to a wide range of conditions including arthritis, osteoporosis, blood clots and stroke, cardiac disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s, cancer, anxiety and depression, and insomnia. Many tests will show your risks are in these areas, but the key to choosing relevant genetic testing is identifying risks that are modifiable – meaning, they can be effectively manipulated with targeted medical interventions like pharmaceutical, nutritional, lifestyle, and herbal therapies. Identifying specific risk genes can help us target therapy for prediabetes and diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, weight loss, nutrient supplementation, anesthesia dosing, and so much more. For example, if you carry a variant in a gene called LERP, you are 1.5 times more likely to be obese; combine this with a diet high in saturated fat and that risk increases to 3-fold. With a variant in Apo2, your body doesn’t make enough of the hormone that tells your brain you are full, so you may be more susceptible to snacking through the day. Understanding your particular vulnerabilities allows for targeted dietary changes that work in concert with your genes.

While this peak into your future may seem scary at first, choosing testing where every gene is modifiable ensures that you have complete control over preventing disease and improving your health. Working with a medical provider well-versed in how to modify these risks is equally as essential. When these criteria are met, medical genomic analysis provides a powerful step-by-step guide to wellness.