In many aspects of life, we take preventive methods to avoid facing an issue. For example, we leave early to work to prevent the bad traffic, we save money at an early age to prevent future financial issues. We also eat the right food to prevent certain health conditions, we get insurance to prevent a million dollar medical bill and many more. If you are informed about your health risks, you can make the right choices to prevent it from progressing further.
The saliva although most of us find it yucky or even unhealthy, holds a secret code that tells the story of your life. It contains your DNA, the drive that holds all the codes of your bodily functions, from how you look, to your cognitive abilities and even has stored information on your potential health risks. Let’s just call your DNA a fortune teller. Through advancement of genetic testing, the information of your DNA is available within weeks after sending your sample for testing.
The secret that lies within you
You may wonder how something as nasty as your saliva holds hidden secrets about you. There are many ways to obtain DNA, for example blood, hair, saliva and mouth swabs. The saliva collection method is less invasive, so it can be done by the individual in the comfort of their home with minimal risk of disease transmission . Through fast and easy collection options which can be transported via mail, you can be assured that the DNA quality is preserved even after 30 days as saliva is stable in room temperature .
Opening the Pandora’s box
So what happens next after we have taken the test?
Do I need to sit and worry?
Before all of that information sends a shiver down your liver, let’s understand how this entire process is actually quite simple yet it has a tremendous value in helping you prepare and become a little smarter in taking on the potential health risks you may have.
Five-steps in managing your risks after you get your DNA report:
Step 1: Consult a healthcare professional
If you have an increased risk for certain diseases, you could see a healthcare professional who will be able to give you the correct information on how to manage the disease to prevent it from progressing further. This advice can include the proper diet, correct medication, lifestyle and even routine blood tests to keep everything in check.
Take for example familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), an inherited genetic disorder that causes elevated levels of cholesterol in the body and can lead to serious health conditions such as heart attack, heart disease or stroke at an early age, if left untreated . Since it is an inherited genetic disorder, familial hypercholesterolemia can be present from birth as well.
As much as lifestyle changes and diet are necessary, early medical treatment is very important so that the individuals can live a longer and healthier life. A healthcare professional can better advice on the cholesterol lowering drugs you should start taking to reduce or prevent the chances of a heart attack.
Step 2: Dietary and lifestyle modifications
A dietitian or nutritionist can help plan out your ideal healthy diet. They could recommend supplements to help your health needs, if you can’t obtain sufficient nutrients from your daily diet.
They could also suggest lifestyle changes you should adapt in order to have a better treatment outcome.
For example, the Familial Hypercholesterolemia Foundation encourages people with increased risk to familial hypercholesterolemia, to include more fiber such as fruits, vegetables and nuts in their diet. The foundation also advises to cut down the consumption of saturated fat and avoid trans fat. Besides that, having a moderate consumption of alcohol, stop smoking and maintaining a healthy weight is also advisable .
Speak to your nutritionist or dietitian to get your ideal diet plan.
Step 3: Get active
Lifestyle plays a crucial role in the management of a disease. Reach out or speak to your fitness consultants on fitness routines that can help with the management of the disease.
In the case of familial hypercholesterolemia, your levels of LDL (low density lipoprotein) is greatly elevated. LDL is also known as the “bad cholesterol”. Studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise about 120 minutes a week increases your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol or better known as your “good” cholesterol [4, 5]. Exercise can also help reduce the “bad “cholesterol in your body [4, 5].
If you are considering to shed some weight, work with your fitness personal to tailor a fitness routine that will suit you.
Step 4: Get insured
Just like all the preventive methods we have taken in life, being well insured is very important as well. Speak to your insurance providers to understand how you can be better covered in case you need hospitalization and understand your insurance policies on how it will help manage and cover your medical expenses in the future. If you haven’t already got an insurance you should strongly consider getting one.
Step 5: Be informed and start preventing
Your DNA test report does not guarantee that you will get certain diseases. It is only able to tell your potential health risk. With these information, you could be better informed of your risks. You could be more empowered to make informed decisions on what goes on your plate. Therefore you can make the right choices and take preventive steps to lead a healthier, longer and happier life.
- Garbieri, T.F., et al., Human DNA extraction from whole saliva that was fresh or stored for 3, 6 or 12 months using five different protocols. Journal of Applied Oral Science, 2017. 25(2): p. 147-158.
- Sun, F. and E.J. Reichenberger, Saliva as a source of genomic DNA for genetic studies: review of current methods and applications. Oral Health Dent Manag, 2014. 13(2): p. 217-22.
- FH, F. thefhfoundation. [Online] [cited 1st March 2019; Available from: https://thefhfoundation.org/.
- Kelly, R.B., Diet and exercise in the management of hyperlipidemia. American family physician, 2010. 81(9): p. 1097-1102.
- Fragala, M.S., et al., Associations of aerobic and strength exercise with clinical laboratory test values. PloS one, 2017. 12(10): p. e0180840.