Heart disease runs in your family, but are you at risk? Your doctor prescribed an opioid for pain relief, but how well will your body tolerate the medication? Do you really have a sweet tooth, or is that just an excuse to get a second helping of dessert? It used to be difficult to get clear answers to questions like that, but a better understanding of how your body works is easier than ever to achieve, thanks to advances in DNA science and the availability of genetic health testing, especially home DNA tests.
How DNA Works
To understand how an at-home genetic test can tell you more about your body, it helps to know a little bit about DNA and the role it plays in genetics and shaping who you are.
In your body’s cells, the nucleus carries 23 pairs of chromosomes. Every pair is made up of a set of chromosomes from each of your parents and those chromosomes contain DNA, which stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. DNA contains your genetic makeup.
This collection of genes is called your genotype. A genotype helps determine traits such as eye color and height—these kinds of visible traits make up what’s called your phenotype. So, your DNA helps determine what you look like, but it also affects things you can’t see. DNA sequences that have been found in a particular place on a chromosome are called genetic markers. These markers can provide evidence of possible risk for inherited diseases.
DNA testing can look for those markers for certain diseases such as breast or colorectal cancer, as well as for some wellness factors such as the effect sun exposure can have on your skin, how your body responds to different kinds of foods or the vitamins your body needs. Getting the results from these kinds of home DNA tests can help you better understand how your body works and make any necessary lifestyle changes to optimize your overall wellness.
What Genetic Test is Right for You
Pathway Genomics offers several different kinds of at-home genetic tests, so you can select one based on your particular interests:
- FiT IQ™. This kit helps unlock knowledge of your genetic predispositions in diet and exercise. More than 20 traits are covered in this DNA home test including eating behaviors such as snacking; reaction to caffeine, alcohol, lactose and other foods and your body’s adaptability to strength or aerobic exercise. You can also learn more about your genetic diet type and how your body can lose weight faster. You can use these results to develop a comprehensive wellness plan.
- PathwayFit®. This at-home test builds upon the FiT IQ™, offering testing for those traits as well as several others, including what vitamins your body needs and how the food you eat affects your cholesterol, triglyceride and blood sugar levels. You’ll also get a tailored-to-you diet guideline that uses your genetic profile to determine the amount of carbohydrates, protein and fat you should be including in your daily meal plan.
- Gluten Fit™. These days, you can find gluten-free foods on supermarket shelves everywhere. Gluten intolerance has grown in awareness over the last several years, but it can be difficult to pin down a diagnosis because there can be so many different symptoms. This test looks at five traits, including the risk for celiac disease caused by gluten sensitivity.
- SkinFit® and SKiN IQ™. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of spending hundreds of dollars on skincare products and never getting the results you want. But the findings from these two home DNA tests can help you target your skin’s specific needs, which can assist you in making smarter skincare purchases armed with the knowledge about how to best care for your body’s largest organ. This kit explores your genetic predisposition to things such as sun spots, cellulite, varicose veins or dry skin. You can also learn about potential risks to your skin when it comes to signs of aging or allergic reaction. The SkinFit® test reports on 13 traits, while SKiN IQ™ focuses on 23 traits.
- Mental Health DNA Insight®. If you’ve been prescribed with antidepressants, mood stabilizers or other medication for a mental health condition, you may find that fine-tuning to get the right dosage can take time (and suffering through side effects). This kit focuses on the possible effects that more than 50 kinds of psychiatric medications might have, according to your genetic report. The results can include a chart outlining which medications are preferred for use and which ones you should stay away from and why.
- Pain Medication DNA Insight®. Opioid misuse is an epidemic in America, a crisis that’s attributed in part to the increase in prescriptions of powerful opioid pain medications. To help safeguard against any problems, it can be crucial to know how you will respond to pain medications. With this home genetic test, you can see how your body will potentially react to 13 medications, including opioids such as oxycodone, fentanyl and hydrocodone.
- Cardiac DNA Insight®. A healthy heart keeps your body running smoothly, so it’s important to have as much insight as possible on any potential risks that could one day cause problems. Using this DNA test, you’ll get more information about your potential to experience cardiac irregularities such as atrial fibrillation and myocardial infarction, as well as cardiovascular issues such as hypertension and venous thrombosis. This kit can also enhance the picture of your heart health by looking at possible genetic risks for elevated triglycerides or LDL cholesterol, which in turn can help you make any necessary lifestyle modifications such as improving your diet or increasing the intensity of your workouts.
In addition to these at-home genetic testing kits, Pathways offers several kits that your physician can order for you. Results are generally available to your health care provider within two to three weeks and then released to you. Pathways also provides genetic counseling services to physicians and patients to ensure clear understanding of the results and what they can signify. With these tests, you and your physician can work in partnership to ensure you are meeting your wellness goals. There are a variety of options to choose from:
- Healthy Woman DNA Insight®. Obesity can lead to many serious health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease, and this test can help your physician guide you in finding and maintaining a healthy weight using your unique genetic profile as a tool. Markers for a range of weight-related conditions are covered in this test—the food you eat and how you metabolize it, the effect of exercise on your body and the nutrients your body may be at risk of lacking, among other things. The results also include diet recommendations based on your genetic type, with explanations of how different foods and nutrients can benefit your health.
- Healthy Woman DNA Insight®. This genetic test offers the benefits of the Healthy Weight DNA Insight test with an added focus on women’s health. It’s especially helpful if you are a woman trying to reach a healthy weight while also managing female-centric health issues such as menopause or pregnancy.
- Carrier Status DNA Insight®. If you are planning to have children, this test can be a valuable pre-pregnancy tool to see if you are carrying any genetic mutations that could be passed down to your baby. This test is aligned with genetic testing recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and looks for more than 120 genetic diseases that can be caused by a recessive genetic mutation.
- BRCATrue® and ColoTrue®. The BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes are commonly associated with breast and ovarian cancers—in fact, for 80% of families who have a history of these cancers, it’s caused by a mutation in one of those BRCA genes. BRCATrue® will assess your potential cancer risks related to these genes. ColoTrue® analyzes 13 genes to see if you have a hereditary risk of colorectal cancer, which can afflict 1 in 20 people and is the third most-common cancer diagnosed in both men and women.
- BreastTrue® High Risk Panel. This test studies the genetic sequencing of not only the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes, but also other genes where mutations pose a high risk of cancer, such as PALB2, CDH1 and CHEK2, among others.
Your body is the only body you’ll ever have, so you want to take care of it the best you can. Genetic testing, whether it’s a home DNA test or a panel ordered by your physician, can give you the critical knowledge that you need to make informed decisions about your health and wellness.