There is a lot of buzz these days about genetic testing. Companies like 23&Me have come under fire as critics fear the genetic data could be used by health insurance companies to deny coverage, along with other privacy rights issues.
While I understand these arguments, for me personally, the information I have learned via genetic testing has been very valuable. The following isn’t an endorsement; I’m just sharing my experience.
I did the 23&Me genetic testing years ago. It flagged conditions I already knew I was at risk for, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and what I already have, such as Celiac disease. But the most curious result was the high risk I had compared to the general population for hereditary thrombophilia, which is a predisposition to developing harmful blood clots. I didn’t know what to make of the result (which indicated I had roughly a 60% higher risk than the average person) because blood clots have never been an issue in my family and I’ve never experienced one.
Then my mother became ill, and after her surgery, developed multiple blood clots. Those clots complicated her recovery, so instead of being able to return home post-surgery, she had to spend two months in a rehab center. She required an additional surgical procedure to address her blood clot, which led to its own complications, in which she began to bleed out. She eventually recovered, after spending months on blood thinning medication, which requires strict oversight.
Recently, 23&Me updated their genetic health risk results system and unveiled a new interface in which to interpret the results. By viewing this, I saw that I carry two major genetic variants linked to blood clotting issues: Factor V and Prothrombin G20210A.
So what does this mean for my health? It means that I am aware that because of my genetic makeup, I should alert medical staff before having surgery and I should be vigilant about maintaining leg movement when traveling for long distances. Fortunately, I don’t smoke and I’m not obese, two risk factors, though risk increases as one ages. With precautions, many blood clots are preventable. The problem is, people usually don’t know they are at risk until it’s too late. Just read these stories from the National Blood Clot Alliance.
Let’s face it, my risk for blood clots is not something that would have been uncovered during an annual physical. I have no idea if my mother had the same genetic variants that I do, but I know she would have wanted to know before going through the medical setbacks that the blood clots caused her.
Have you done any form of genetic testing? If so, did you find it helpful or not?