Genetic tests look for changes in your DNA structure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, even though there are several at-home DNA test kits on the market, you can only get genetic testing for hereditary conditions with a certified medical practitioner’s prescription.
Before taking a genetic health test, you should talk to your doctor or genetic counselor. They will help you pick the best option based on your needs and the accuracy of the test kit. Some of these include DNA test kits from 23andMe and LivingDNA.
» Want to try an at-home DNA test? Check out our top picks for the best DNA test kit and companies.
1. Parkinson’s Disease
According to the National Institute of Health, at least 500,000 Americans have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, with another 50,000 diagnoses yearly. Genetics contribute to Parkinson's disease for about 15% of people with Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder caused by the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. It causes uncontrollable and slower movements, stiffness, and difficulty maintaining balance and coordination. It can also lead to behavioral and mental changes such as depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.
DNA genetic testing helps curb this disease's progression through early detection. This allows your doctor to curate treatment plans that might prevent or slow the disease.
How to Prevent Parkinson’s Disease
As the exact causes of Parkinson's disease are still unknown, there are no proven ways to cure or prevent the disease. One publication, however, suggests that you may be able to slow the progression of the disease through frequent physical activity. This may include balance training, aerobic exercises, or strength training.
2. Breast Cancer
Every year in the US, there are about 264,000 breast cancer diagnoses in women and 2,400 in men, and African American women are more likely to have a higher death rate from breast cancer than white women.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) notes that breast cancer is easier to treat successfully when detected early. If your family has a history of breast cancer, DNA genetic testing can determine your chances of developing breast cancer and help your doctor recommend prevention methods.
How to Prevent Breast Cancer
While it is impossible to change factors like age or family history, you can reduce your risk of breast cancer using these measures recommended by the ACS:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Increasing your physical activity
- Consuming less alcohol
» Learn more about the importance of getting a DNA test.
3. Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings and unusual shifts in concentration, energy, and activity levels. Keep in mind that a family history of bipolar disorder does not guarantee that you will develop it too. However, you can develop it even if you have no history of bipolar disorder in your family.
Genetic testing helps you assess your risk of developing bipolar disorder. Your results can eliminate your worries or serve as a prevention or treatment guide for your doctor.
How to Prevent Bipolar Disorder
Because the exact causes of bipolar disorder are unknown, there are no proven ways to prevent it. There are, however, ways to manage it. When combined with medication and therapy, research suggests that omega-3 supplements can help reduce the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
4. Age-related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common cause of vision loss in adults, especially those over 60. Over time, it becomes difficult for those affected by this disease to read, recognize faces, or drive.
People older than 55 and those with a family history of the disease are at a higher risk of getting AMD. DNA genetic testing can tell you your chances of developing this disease early enough so that you can explore prevention methods.
How to Prevent AMD
You cannot control factors like age and ethnicity that contribute to your risk of developing AMD, but you can control the progression of AMD if you:
- Get regular physical activity
- Eat more fish and leafy greens
- Maintain healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure
- Avoid smoking
Psoriasis is the most common autoimmune condition in the US. Symptoms depend on the type of psoriasis, but it usually causes itchy and scaly red patches on your body.
Research suggests that you may develop psoriasis if you have a family history. DNA genetic tests assess your risk of developing this disease and help you find suitable treatment and prevention methods.
How to Prevent Psoriasis
There is no proven way to prevent psoriasis, but there are ways to manage its symptoms, such as identifying and avoiding your triggers. You can also reduce these symptoms by:
- Keeping your skin and scalp moisturized
- Regular sun exposure
- Vitamin D supplements
- Reducing stress
- Avoiding skin injuries
Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that affects your reading and writing ability. Although it is a neurological condition, dyslexia is not associated with intelligence but rather with your genes.
You will likely develop dyslexia if you have a family history. Genetic testing can help with an early diagnosis, facilitating treatment options that lower the condition’s impact on your quality of life.
How to Prevent Dyslexia
There are no known ways to prevent dyslexia, but the condition can be managed. For children, this may include reading out to the child or introducing gadgets that read for them. Adults can record what people say to listen to it later instead of taking notes or take verbal instead of written instructions.
» Want to know more about your health? Learn how your ancestry and ethnicity affect your health.
7. Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune condition triggered by gluten that damages the small intestine by causing diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Early diagnosis is vital to prevent long-term damage to the intestine. Genetic testing can help discover the disease early and guide your doctor in recommending a treatment plan.
How to Prevent Celiac Disease
There are no proven ways to prevent celiac disease. However, you can avoid aggravating this condition by sticking to a gluten-free diet and following the guidelines for food introduction by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The CDC states that people with a BMI of 30 and above are obese. Although inactivity is believed to be one of its causes, hereditary genes are still among the major factors triggering obesity.
Genetic testing can help discover if you possess any of the genes associated with obesity, making it easier to take certain precautions to ensure you avoid obesity.
How to Prevent Obesity
Obesity is preventable with little lifestyle adjustments. Some of these include:
- Eating healthy meals with lots of fruits and vegetables
- Avoiding junk food and sugary drinks
- Sleeping well
- Reducing stress
» Learn more about your nutrition through DNA testing.
9. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder in women that occurs due to certain gene changes and lifestyle habits. The proteins that form these genes help in various biological pathways. These pathways are affected when these proteins are altered, leading to PCOS.
A genetic test can tell you more about your risk for PCOS and recommend diets and routines to manage it.
How to Prevent PCOS
Although there is no proven way to prevent PCOS, you can take steps to reduce the symptoms. Some of these steps include eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and managing your weight.
10. Down’s Syndrome
Down syndrome is a common genetic condition that occurs when a partial or full copy of chromosome 21 is present in the fetus. The extra chromosome replicates throughout the body, causing symptoms like flattened facial features, reduced muscle tone, slanting eyes, and small limbs.
Doctors recommend DNA tests like the cell-free fetal DNA (cfDNA) test for pregnant women who are at risk of having a baby with Down's syndrome. This test screens the fetal DNA to check for extra copies of chromosome 21.
Not all genetic conditions are curable or preventable. However, it helps if you discover your chances of getting them so you can make changes and stall their progression. DNA tests can help determine which conditions will affect you before the symptoms even appear.
A good place to start will be trying out some of the best DNA test kits. Be sure to run these by your doctor to check what’s right for you.
» Not sure you can trust at-home DNA tests? We checked their accuracy so you don't have to.