Recently, 23andMeTM emerged from a multi-year hiatus as the first FDA approved direct-to-consumer genetic testing service. Now through many different genetic test companies, customers can order a kit, send in their saliva, and receive their results. These tests have been revamped over time to offer significant improvements over older versions, perhaps the most significant being that it no longer offers risk analysis on major diseases such as Alzheimer’s and breast cancer. Some speculate that this is likely in part because of concerns patients may not know how to process the information, leading to issues like unnecessary elective mastectomies.
However, it can still be challenging for test recipients to figure out how best to contextualize their results, and how to prioritize recommended lifestyle changes.
Part of the challenge is the audience for these tests, which is perhaps somewhat broader than that of most medical devices. The test is frequently used by generally healthy people, who may not have as much experience with the jargon and wellness guidelines those who’ve spent more time in medical care do. It’s also sometimes given as a gift (as is delightfully described in Genome Magazine in this feature which begins, “Would you give someone you love a small plastic vial for her birthday and ask her to spit into it?”), in which case recipients may have even less understanding of how to use the results productively. Importantly, it’s also gained buzz among parents and prospective parents seeking to better understand the health needs–and risks–their genetics might create for their offspring.
Regardless of why one chooses to get tested, genetic tests are a great starting point for a conversation with a wellness professional. A consult can help report recipients get the most out of their test experience by providing further context and integrating results into a long term wellness plan. Here are some ways our practice has helped patients put genetic testing results to use:
Medication: The efficacy of certain medications can be predicted by genetics. By examining your results and reviewing current and future prescriptions, a professional can provide you with the best medications for your condition, and help you avoid those that are unlikely to work.
Diet: Genetics are an important insight into how we metabolize different nutrients. A professional can help you use your test results to accomplish your dietary goals, whether you’re bulking up or slimming down.
Risk: By taking into account genetics, medical history, and lifestyle, a medical professional can provide more accurate counseling on conditions you may be susceptible to–and what to be most aware of when considering its impact on kids.
A More Personal & Proactive Approach: Direct to consumer genetic tests can inspire a deeper, more personal connection to one’s health. This is perhaps especially true among those whose primary interaction with the medical establishment has been the generic annual check up, a ritual focused on maintaining a basic, “good enough” standard of health. Genetic tests provide motive and opportunity for these patients to stop settling for good enough, to take ownership of their health and strive for better. Physicians can use testing reports to develop customized health and fitness goals, and offer patients more precise, effective tools to reach these goals. The end result is a long-term wellness plan with a clearer, more constructive trajectory.
Interested in learning more, or discussing your genetic testing results? Request an appointment–our team would love to help you get more from your report!
23andMeTM is not sponsored, affiliated, or otherwise connected in any way to Advanced Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute or its subsidies. 23andMe is a registered trademark used for reference purposes only.