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10 Surprising Things a DNA Test Can Tell about Your Health

Michael Graw
Health DNA testing
At-home DNA testing has become one of the best ways to find out about your health.

These tests offer a window into your genetic predisposition for certain diseases, your body’s metabolism, and your overall health. With the right data, you can learn new things about your body and proactively improve your health.

So, let’s explore 10 surprising things that you can learn about your health from a DNA test.

1. Discover Your Natural Weight

One of the most helpful pieces of information you can get from a DNA test is your body’s natural weight. For some of us, this number might be higher than we want it to be, while for others it may be lower. If you’ve struggled with weight in the past, a series of genes that control your metabolism may be part of the problem.

The good news is that your genes don’t control everything about your weight. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help you control it. 

At the same time, simply knowing what your body’s ideal weight is can be the first step towards accepting that a little extra weight isn’t always a bad thing.

2. Find Out if You Have a Hereditary Disease

DNA tests can also be used to screen for hereditary diseases like Huntington’s disease, sickle cell anemia, Marfan syndrome, and more. In fact, there are more than 2,000 hereditary diseases that can be diagnosed through DNA testing. These are diseases that, if you have the mutation associated with them, are almost certain to develop regardless of your lifestyle or current health.

Having the ability to check for these diseases with a DNA test is crucial. Once you know you have genes for a specific condition, you can build a health plan with your doctor.

In addition, you can find out if you’re a carrier for a specific disease even if you don’t have it. If you are a carrier, a DNA test can tell you what your chances are of passing the genes for that disease onto a child.

3. Get the Vitamins Your Body Needs

Another thing you can learn from a DNA test is how your body metabolizes different types of vitamins. For example, your body might be genetically predisposed to need more Vitamin D, which comes from sunlight. If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, it could be because your body isn’t getting all the Vitamin D it needs.

Testing providers like Living DNA offer genetic screens that tell you about how your body processes many different types of vitamins. Once you know which vitamins your body needs in more than average amounts, you can easily buy the right supplements to manage your health.

4. Evaluate Your Risk for Common Cancers

DNA tests can also tell you about your risk for certain hereditary cancers, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, and skin cancer. While these cancers aren’t directly caused by a mutated gene (like genetic diseases are), your risk of developing cancer may be much higher if you have one or more specific mutations.

For example, mutations in the BRCA 1 and 2 genes have been linked to breast cancer. Having these mutations doesn’t mean you will definitely get this form of cancer, but it does mean your risk is higher than average. You may want to begin getting annual mammograms in your 30s rather than in your 40s.

If you have a family history of cancer, check out the DNA testing kit from Futura Genetics. It offers screening for 8 different cancers that have a genetic link and provides detailed information about what your results mean for you.

5. Look Out for Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is increasingly thought to have its roots in genetics—specifically, in mutations in a set of genes called ApoE. DNA tests can detect these mutations and alert you to whether you’re at above-average risk for developing Alzheimer’s later in life.

Importantly, Alzheimer’s also has a significant environmental component and is related to how much you exercise your brain as you age. So finding out early on whether your genes put you at risk of developing Alzheimer’s can help you take preventative measures.

This is especially worthwhile if your family has a history of the disease since mutations in the ApoE gene can be passed on from generation to generation.

6. Find Out if Gluten Could Be Your Enemy

Celiac disease, the autoimmune disease that causes gluten intolerance, is also linked to genetics. The disease is caused by mutations in a variety of genes, and you can have varying degrees of gluten intolerance depending on which mutations your DNA carries.

As a result, many people suffer from the effects of mild to moderate gluten intolerance without even knowing it. Symptoms include fatigue, digestive issues, and dermatitis, and it’s easy not to realize that these problems may stem from your diet.

With a DNA test, you can find out whether your body might be better off by leaving gluten out of your diet.

7. Discover the Best Way to Recover after Exercise

If you’re sore for days after every workout, it could be because of your genes. Muscle soreness is a result of inflammation controlled by several different genes. Specific DNA sequences in these genes can make them more or less active, which in turn contributes to more or less inflammation in your muscles after you exercise.

At-home DNA tests can provide information about inflammation-related genes and help you understand what your body needs to adequately recover from exercise. Based on your genetic makeup, you can choose specific anti-inflammatory products that work best for you. You can also develop specific routines that turn off your inflammation-producing genes and soothe your aching muscles.

8. Find Out If You’re at Risk of Diabetes

Diabetes is a complex disease that involves genetics, diet, weight, stress, and more. Ultimately, diabetes is a failure by your body to produce insulin, so your genetic predisposition for the disease is extremely important.

Your genetic risk for diabetes—both types 1 and 2—can be assessed through a DNA test. Finding out that you’re at higher-than-average risk early on offers an opportunity to manage your diet and weight so that you don’t develop diabetes. It also gives you a chance to monitor for symptoms, so you can identify diabetes and begin to manage your blood sugar sooner rather than later.

9. Determine Whether You’re Lactose Intolerant

Lactose intolerance is closely linked to mutations in the genes your body needs to produce the lactase enzyme. So, at-home DNA tests can offer clear information about whether you’re partially or fully lactose intolerant.

That insight can be extremely helpful for determining your optimal diet. If you’re partially lactose intolerant, for example, you may want to switch to lactose-free milk and avoid foods like butter and cheese. 

Like for gluten intolerance, it can be easy to miss the warning signs of lactose intolerance. A DNA test offers a clear way to tell if your body would be better off without lactose.

10. Evaluate Your Risk of Heart Disease

Many different types of cardiovascular diseases are linked to your genes. In fact, your genetic makeup is one of the biggest risk factors for conditions like coronary heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, and atrial fibrillation. 

A DNA test can detect the mutations commonly associated with these conditions and warn you about them long before any problems develop. From there, you can develop a heart-healthy diet and exercise routine to make sure genetic risk doesn’t turn into disease. You can also work with your doctor to proactively monitor your cardiac health over time.

Summary

DNA testing is a simple and affordable tool for finding out more about your health. DNA tests can determine whether you’re at elevated risk of diseases with a genetic basis, such as hereditary cancers, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Based on your results, you can proactively manage your health and work with your doctor to monitor your health.

DNA tests can also tell you about your metabolism, including your optimal weight, what vitamins your body needs, and your tolerance for gluten and lactose.

Whatever aspect of your health you’re interested in learning more about, it’s easy to test your DNA. Check out our list of the best DNA tests to get started today!

Michael Graw
Michael Graw is a freelance writer and journalist based in the Pacific Northwest who writes for top10.com.