Your Genetic Horoscope
“You have your mother’s eyes.” “You are tall like your father.” “Your hair texture is exactly like your mother’s.” “I think you got your father’s skin tone.”- We all have grown up hearing how much we resemble our parents. It is true because we inherit many characteristics and traits from our parents through genes. Your genes are responsible for your eye color, hair texture, skin tone, etc. But is that all? No. Just like we inherit the genes for such physical traits and characters from our parents, we also inherit a few other genes responsible for causing different diseases and conditions.
What if you could find out if you have such genes before they get expressed into a disease? What if you can prevent them? The answer to both these questions is a big YES!
A Genetic Predisposition test can analyze your genetic risk factors for developing different health conditions. You can consider it as your Genetic Horoscope!
Now that you know about your genetic risk factors, how do you manage them? Well, the good thing about your genes is that they can be influenced! Certain factors such as your diet, exercise, medications, and even your surrounding environment can influence your genes and even modify them. Hence, you can prevent or delay the onset of many health conditions with a lifestyle modification plan tailor-made as per your genes.
Worry not, if this disease prediction scares you. You are not alone in this journey of discovering yourself.
The helping hand
Understanding the results of any genetic test is important. You send in a sample of your DNA and get a report containing several rows and columns of medical jargon. So, you require professional help to properly interpret the results. Here is where the role of a Genetic Counselor becomes significant.
A Genetic Counselor (GC) is a certified healthcare professional specializing in medical genetics and psychological counseling. They are well-trained and skilled to handle all your worries and queries about genetic tests.
The GC will begin the counseling process by taking a detailed personal and family history. The query includes basic details such as your age, height, weight, health history, and the health histories of your family members. Your personal and family history will give GC a better insight into your genetic report. The GC then explains the genetic report beginning with the basics of genetics, what to expect from the counseling session, the meaning of different genetic risks and risk levels, the disease condition, symptoms, age of onset, etc.
By carefully analyzing the genetic risk factors and combining them with your personal and family history, the GC will give you a risk assessment and provide you with a detailed and personalized lifestyle modification plan. The personalised lifestyle modification will include what all food and beverages you may take, avoid, or have in moderation, which kind of exercise will suit your body type and the ones you have to avoid, know the possible toxicity and efficacy of medications, and other routine lifestyle factors for improving your health. This will encourage you to make informed lifestyle choices so that you can lead a long, healthy, and productive life.
Should you know your future?
Genetics is a new concept for many people and thus, a genetic test that predicts your future health risks creates a lot of curiosity. Some people find it hard to believe and some think it is unnecessary. As a genetic counselor, I often come across such “FAQs.” Let me tell you one case study from my own experience.
Once a 40-year-old woman came to me with chronic skin problems. She had pigmentations,reddish-purple rashes, and bumps on many parts of her body. She consulted many doctors, and tried many medications and topical ointments but, all of them only gave her temporary relief.
She came to know about the genetic predisposition test and took up the test as a final attempt to find out the root cause of her skin condition. During the genetic counseling session, I observed that she showed a high genetic risk for developing Sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory condition that can affect multiple organs in your body including the skin. She also revealed that she was taking Vitamin D and calcium supplements regularly for her general bone health. There were many cases where people suffering from sarcoidosis experienced flare-ups when taking Vitamin D or Calcium supplements.
Considering all these factors, I suspected her skin condition might be Sarcoidosis. I explained her genetic risk, its symptoms, and its connection with the supplementation she was currently taking. I suggested she talk to a Dermatologist and inform the doctor about the genetic risk for Sarcoidosis. A biopsy was suggested for confirmation and blood tests to check her Vitamin D and Calcium levels.
She soon came back to us and she was in tears. Well, happy tears! Turns out, her skin condition is Sarcoidosis. She started with her treatments and was given the right Corticosteroids and immunosuppressants and her Vitamin D and calcium dosage were also adjusted by the clinician.
She finally got relief from her chronic condition which as she quoted “would only go away with me.”
Potholes on the road
Now, this is one of the cases wherein we were able to help somebody live a healthier and happier life based on the findings from their genetic predisposition report. It's a known fact that the deeper we dwell on something the more information we get. The more clarity we get, the more it makes sense. Similar is the case with your genes.
Ultimately you are what your genes are. The more you know about your genes and your genetic risk factors, the more informed you will be about your health choices.
Think about this way.Imagine, you are traveling on a smooth road, enjoying the beautiful scenery, about to reach your destination. And suddenly, you fell into a big pothole on the road that you missed. Wouldn't you rather have known beforehand how many potholes were there on the road so that you could “avoid” them and not “fall” into them?