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Healthline Connects
Healthline Connects

The Benefits of Genetic Testing

Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about the second half of my life. The fact that I turned 40 last year may be the cause. Or it may be that I’ve had two close friends (same age as me) who’ve recently faced sudden and frightening health scares. It might even be dealing with my aging parents and thinking about the health issues they might face.

Whatever the reason, my one resolution this year was to get serious and take steps to help ensure that I stay healthy and independent as I age. So at the top of my to-do list was figuring out which medical conditions I might be more at risk for, and taking steps to prevent them. One reason this is a bit more difficult for me is that I’m pretty healthy today. Ever since college I’ve maintained a healthy weight of about 135 pounds, which for my height of 5 ft 9 in, puts my BMI right in the middle of “normal”. I get annual physicals and since I’ve been a vegetarian for about 20 years, I also get detailed blood work done so that I can make sure that I’m getting the right nutrition. Outside of the normal colds and a nasty case of food poisoning in Mexico last year, I’ve really never been that sick.

Some folks can poke around their family history for clues on what might be in their future. But I come from a very small family…an only child of two only children. Both parents are mid-60s, and still relatively healthy. One grandmother is still alive and the others died young from accidents. Again: no clues.

I could simply look at the statistics for my gender and lifestyle choices and make guesses about the “most-likely” culprits like heart disease and colon cancer, but I’d really like to be more aggressive.

Luckily I found a service that can help: Navigenics.

Through a simple process, they screen your genome and look for “markers” that are tied to specific conditions. They factor in how much risk is associated with each marker, how common that marker is as well as how common the condition is to come up with an individual risk percentage for each condition. (They scan against over 20 common conditions including Crohn’s disease, breast cancer, osteoarthritis and glaucoma.)

For instance, if my results showed a higher-than-average risk for colon cancer, I might want to talk to my doctor about starting screening earlier than normally advised. If diabetes is flagged, even though is doesn’t seem to run in my family, I might take preventative steps when it comes to my diet.

I got my kit in the mail which contained some print info, an addressed mailing pouch and a sample tube that I needed to fill with saliva and return. I promptly filled the tube and dropped the sample in a FedEx box. In a few business days, I’ll be notified that my results are available online. I’ll also be scheduled for a discussion with one of their genetic counselors, who will help explain the results and ask questions that will help fill in the puzzle pieces.

So check back in with this blog when I share the results from my test and when I take steps to prevent those conditions I’m at risk for.


Disclosure: Navigenics provided the sample test for the author, but had no input into the creation of this article.

To learn more about Navigenics, request you free info kit.
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The Healthline Editorial team writes about the latest health news, policy, and research.