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Genetic Testing 101 – Understanding Your Wellness Through A DNA Test

Nowadays, it’s already common knowledge that their genetic make-up determines every person’s specific trait and characteristic. This is basically summed up by the expression ‘it’s in your blood,’ which was already ingrained in social knowledge long before genetics was discovered.

The breakthrough with DNA and genetics, though, came about when it was discovered that genes could be used to determine the kinds and types of diseases and illnesses that a person could get sick of in the course of their entire life. Medical experts found out this could be done thru genetic testing. When doctors found out that certain genetic variants were linked to specific diseases, they began developing a genetic test for diseases, as well as a nutrition and fitness DNA test.

Genetic Testing

Genetic testing works by looking for significant changes in your DNA. These changes are also called mutations or variants in your DNA. The body follows certain instructions on how to grow and function. It takes these instructions from your DNA structure, which functions as some sort of an instruction manual. 

The basic units of DNA are made up of nucleotides, which have been given four different letters: A, T, C, and G. The entire genome of each human being is made up of about 3 billion pairs of these nucleotides. Each cell contains thousands of genes that contain codes. These codes determine your specific genetic traits, such as your blood type, the color of your hair, skin, eyes, as well as your height and weight. This genetic code also contains crucial information about the types of diseases and illnesses that may be susceptible to, which paves the importance of genetic testing.

In recent years, medicine has made significant strides with the use of genetic testing for disease prediction and prevention. It has proven quite useful in many areas of medicine. It’s also being used to provide crucial inputs in medical care and patient illness, as well as disease management. For example, genetic tests have proven quite accurate in diagnosing or a specific genetic condition; a genetic test can determine a person’s likelihood to inherit a genetic disorder. Genetic testing can also mine information about a person’s likelihood or risk of getting sick of cancer.

What Can DNA Tests Tell

In a broad sense, genetic testing can yield answers to two important questions, which are important in diagnosing illnesses and coming up with a sensible prognosis. 

The first question answered by genetic testing is whether your DNA contains genetic variants that are linked to certain conditions based on previous studies and analysis. It can also determine whether you have a variant of uncertain significance (VUS). A VUS is a variant that wasn’t previously linked to any condition, making it uncertain how this variant can affect your health.

Genetic tests don’t have the same degrees of accuracy. Various studies have found out that there have been false-positive results in as much as 40% of genetic tests. This result was obtained from direct-to-consumer genetic tests that were done to identify specific mutations. The thing with genetic traits is that it’s possible for a person to carry a specific mutation that’s linked to a higher likelihood of developing such disease, but that person may never get sick of it ever. In other words, having a mutation doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get the disease.

The other explanation by genetic analysts and health experts is that there are other factors that contribute to your health conditions other than your genetic make-up. Some of these factors are the environment (such as exposure to pollution), frequency or lack of physical activity or exercise, diet and nutrition, as well as your other health habits, such as drinking liquor and soda, and smoking.

In much the same way, even if you don’t test positive for a certain variant or mutation linked to a specific disease, illness, or condition, it’s also not a guarantee that you won’t ever develop such disease, illness, or health condition. For example, even if you don’t test positive for variants and mutations which are known to be linked to the development of cancer, if you smoke a lot of cigarettes or are exposed to airborne pollutants, there’s quite a likelihood that you might still develop lung cancer. 

Reasons For Taking The Test

There are various reasons for taking genetic tests, but you shouldn’t take them as a ‘one size fits all’ or an all-knowing oracle that’ll answer and put to rest all your nagging questions about your potential to acquire certain diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney failure, heart ailment, or cancer. 

Here are some of the usual reasons why people undergo genetic testing:

  • To find out whether a common disease among your family and relatives can be explained by certain genetic variants or conditions that are linked to such a common illness.
  • To diagnose a specific condition.
  • To find out whether you have the genetic conditions that are linked to highly fatal diseases, such as heart disease, prostate cancer, or breast cancer.

Takeaway: It’s In Your Genes

There might still be non-believers in the capability of genetic testing to diagnose and predict the occurrence of certain diseases, illnesses, and conditions. And, it’s indeed true that genetic tests have varying degrees of accuracy. Even though they can’t accurately predict whether or not you’ll contract or develop certain diseases, they’re still useful in helping you map out your personal health and wellness plans.

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