We know that DNA tests can help connect us with family members and provide insights into where we come from. The process can give people a sense of identity, but they also can check our health.
DNA testing for health reasons has become one of the main reasons people order a testing kit. With some speculation among the public whether DNA health testing works, we’re here to tell you what they can do and why they are useful.
How Does Health DNA Testing Work?
A decade ago, health DNA testing could tell us about basic genetic conditions and a doctor usually ordered the testing. We can attribute the rising popularity of the tests to the importance we now put on our health, diet and fitness.
DNA is our own unique biological code, which identifies who we are. It’s also the reason some people have blonde hair, or brown eyes. Every single person shares 99.9% in common, with just 0.1% unique code. This small amount of genes is also known as a “variant”.
Most variants are neutral and have no bearing on our health. However, if there’s an abnormality in those variants then the chance of genetic diseases increases. This is where genetic testing for health is useful.
The DNA Testing Process
In most DNA tests, you’ll provide a sample of your saliva. It’s sent to a laboratory and a specialist team extracts the DNA, to ensure it’s in a purer form. A machine will analyze the DNA and the genotyping chip targets specific markers. The sample is added into a data system, and a report is sent to you.
It’s a relatively straight forward process, and it can highlight essential information. There are three types of DNA to test:
Autosomal DNA makes up 22 of the 23 chromosome pairs in our genetic code. Each pair has DNA from the mother and father, but an autosomal test can’t define your gender. Both women and men can have an autosomal test and it’s the most common form of testing available. The results can tell you where you come from and highlight your susceptibility to any diseases.
Y-Chromosomal DNA determines your gender by measuring which chromosomes you have. This type of testing is only available for males, but it can show whether there are any diseases which have been passed from father to son.
Mitochondrial DNA is passed from a mother to the child, but doesn’t hold much information. It can tell you about your roots, but isn’t helpful when it comes to health screening.
What Does DNA Health Screening Show?
A DNA health check can pinpoint our susceptibility to certain diseases. It’s important to know that although testing can provide an insight into if our genetics are geared towards these diseases, they aren’t a diagnostic tool. There are many other factors to consider, which we’ll cover later on. Here are some of the diseases a DNA health testing kit can look for.
Late Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
If a person is over the age of 65 and develops Alzheimer’s then it’s categorized as Late Onset. The illness causes severe memory loss, behavioural problems and an eventual loss of brain function.
Parkinson’s is a motor system disorder, which causes tremors, stiffness and difficulties walking and balancing. It’s common in people over 60 and while there’s no cure medication can relieve the symptoms.
People with celiac disease cannot digest gluten, which can result in severe digestive issues.
Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency
This inherited disorder can cause serious liver and lung disease. The first symptoms appear during 20-50 and it increases the risk of liver cancer and emphysema.
Early onset Primary Dystonia
Individuals with this illness struggle to control their movement and have involuntary muscle contractions.
DNA health testing can show disorders such as Factor XI Deficiency, Hereditary hemochromatosis, Gaucher disease and hereditary thrombophilia.
DNA Testing For Health Risks
There are so many advantages DNA testing for health reasons brings, but it’s important to consider the potential risks. Home testing kits can show you how susceptible you are to inheriting a disease but without a professionals guidance, you might not know how high the risk is.
For some people, it can provide peace of mind to know they may inherit a condition, but it can also affect your life. There’s no way to prevent Alzheimer’s or cure it, so how do people feel when they find out they might get the condition? It can cause stress, anxiety and depression. Testing positive for the Alzheimer’s gene doesn’t mean the person will get the condition so there may be a great deal of worry for no reason.
A DNA health check may not show the Alzheimer’s gene but you can still inherit the condition. Professionals recommend that people shouldn’t be tested for Alzheimer’s because there’s no certainty for them. However, DNA health testing can highlight the risks for other conditions and you can take the steps to reduce your chances of getting a condition.
Having a genetic risk is just a small part of a much bigger puzzle. Factors such as lifestyle and diet can increase your chances of inheriting a condition. Maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and a mix of good fats and protein can reduce the risks, so it’s important to make lifestyle changes if you test positive in your DNA health check.
Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency can cause liver and lung disease, but leading a healthy lifestyle will reduce the symptoms of the disorder. Smoking and drinking alcohol increase the risks of liver and lung disease in everybody, so avoiding harmful substances can keep the condition under control.
It’s also important to note that stress have a significant impact on your overall health. DNA health screening can help you prepare for the future, but relaxation should be one of your top priorities. There are lots of relaxation techniques to maintain anxiety and stress levels.
Companies That Offer DNA Health Analysis
If you’re considering getting a DNA health check, then make sure you find a company that’s approved to carry out health screening. Two companies that offer testing are 23andMe and EasyDNA. Both offer fast and accurate results and the prices range from £100 – £300.