Out Smart Your Genes: Use Your DNA To Create A Healthy Life Plan

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By: Barbara Sadick | Chicago Tribune 

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Ten years ago, geneticists would look only at one or two genes and test for individual diseases. Now, with Next Generation Sequencing, a more rapid, cost-effective approach to genome sequencing, experts can obtain data on thousands of genes with a single test.

When Colby used apps at sequencing.com to interpret the data from the genome sequencing for Lee and his wife, he was able to determine the level of risk for numerous preventable diseases. Together, he and Carlin were then able to translate that information into actionable, meaningful health plans.

“By learning about genetic risk, we can modify nongenetic risk factors and reduce a person's overall risk of a disease,” Colby said.

The data from Lee and his wife show increased risk for heart disease for both. Lee's wife is at particularly high risk because her genome indicates that she is predisposed to Long QT syndrome, an electrical variation in the heart rhythm that can cause sudden death. Lee has a handful of distinct gene combinations in his genome that signal an increased risk for coronary heart disease as he ages. Both are at risk for macular degeneration, and Lee's wife is at increased risk for osteoporosis and multiple sclerosis.

Related Article: We Can Now Edit Our DNA, But Can We Do So Wisely? 

The absolute accuracy of genetic data, however, is dependent upon the amount of research that has been conducted for a specific disease. In the case of heart disease, it is extensive, so going forward, Carlin will oversee the plan to lessen Lee's wife's risk for an electrical heart malfunction and Lee's risk for coronary atherosclerosis.

“Genomics has reached a point,” said Colby, “where we can use a patient's genetic information to personalize health care and lifestyle. We now have the ability to outsmart our genes to protect our health and longevity.”

A common reaction is for people to be afraid to know what diseases and conditions they may be genetically predisposed to. A person might not want to know, for example, that she has a high chance of developing Alzheimer's disease. But Colby and Carlin say knowing can be lifesaving.

For a person at risk for Alzheimer's, a disease about which much remains unknown, measures can be taken early in life to lessen that risk. Head trauma for someone who has the risk for developing Alzheimer's, said Colby, is like throwing gasoline onto a fire. If parents know through genome sequencing that such a risk exists for their child, preventive measures can be taken to protect against Alzheimer's later in life such as avoidance of contact sports.

The plan for the ongoing health care for Lee and his wife is being put into action. The day after receiving the genome sequencing results from Colby, Lee's wife had a baseline EKG done to determine whether she has Long QT syndrome at rest, a sign that her genome was fully expressing that particular defect. The good news, said Carlin, is that her EKG was completely normal, indicating that she probably has a low risk for cardiac sudden death, though the issue will not be completely resolved until after she has been evaluated by a cardiologist specializing in electrical disturbances of cardiac rhythm.

Related Article: Resisting The Matrix Is Encoded In Your DNA

Lee's heart risk appears to increase with age, but he already lives a healthy, active lifestyle, so when he reaches the age of about 45 he will have a heart scan to look for plaque and other evidence of atherosclerosis of the heart's arteries.

To stave off macular degeneration, each is being started on a vitamin supplement regimen, each has begun eating more leafy green vegetables and each has upgraded to a pair of sunglasses that polarize or filter and block intense reflected light.

For her osteoporosis risk, Lee's wife will continue her current exercise regimen but also have a bone density scan within the next six to 12 months, and her vitamin D levels will be periodically checked and supplemented if the need arises. Her risk for MS is a bit trickier, Carlin said. Her initial genome report precipitated a screening that looked at one particular genetic variant that can be made less severe with vitamin D supplements, but she was found not to have that variant.

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  1. Fran Curic Fran Curic says:

    I read before that the telomeres shorted as we age, or so to speak we age as a result of poor diets and exercise and our telomeres shorten. The shortening of the telomeres brings on old age and risk of cancer. Then I read again that forcing the telomeres to lengthen as they are shortening in itself can also cause cancer. This thought made me more willing to check my life style and diet. This is a no win situation. There are so many variables at staying young. It`s just hard in a overpopulated and environmentally polluted world, especially city living.

  2. Keep your ph 7.5 or above- no pathogens survive- lose your fear its holding you down

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