The Truth Behind Genetic Testing

Before You Hand Over Your DNA To 23AndMe, Learn What You're Really Signing Up For

Think before you spit.

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In the past 20 years, we have seen genetic testing go from a million dollar per person investment to a $99 direct-to-consumer kit. The relative accessibility of genetic testing comes with a price, and it is not the price we see at the time of check-out.

As with any medical testing, researchers and scientists in these industries are keen to utilize patient data for population analysis. Much of this work is for the betterment of society and to promote research and development efforts for drug-related clinical trials.

In a recent New York Times editorial, "Why You Should Be Careful About 23andMe's Health Test," the writer(s) make a clear point that disease risk analysis isn't dichotomous. The well-known genetic testing company has met "FDA approval" to roll-out their newest kit for gene-based health risks for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, breast cancer, and several other medical conditions, however, this does not necessarily indicate "clinical utility." Insofar as the physician ordered diagnostic testing, it's actually more robust.

So what good is genetic testing, if there are significant issues, which may allude or delude a person into thinking that they have an increased or decreased risk for a disease which they have no control over, such as degenerative neurological conditions?

Consider also, there are frequent "reclassification" of genetic mutations, as scientific research constantly evolves to understand the vast landscape of the human genome. The implications of "reclassifying" genetic mutations translate to clinical misinformation, and overall inconsistencies between the creators of the kits to the patients, and the physician's, if they are involved in the equation. As it would seem, the results of a genetic test are understood to be the "truth," however, this is a common misunderstanding, which can cause grave medical implications downstream for patients.

Scary to think that a mutation considered to be benign may be considered malignant tomorrow.

How should this shape your view on genetic testing? Whether you have a known family history of a genetic condition or have an unknown carrier status, you should consider speaking to your primary care doctor to discuss the implications of physician-ordered testing kits and or direct-to-consumer kits. Moreover, there are less complicated diseases known as Mendelian conditions which are typically better known and understood, as they are controlled by a single locus in an inheritance pattern.

Additionally, there are board-certified genetic counselors who work alongside physicians, industry labs, and so forth who are trained to educate, inform, and empower patients in terms of their genetic predisposition. Their role in genetic testing is crucial, but as the typical doctor's visit is less than 10 minutes, this does not allow for comprehensive genetic counseling inclusive of all other necessary measures.

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Everything You Will Miss If You Commit Suicide

The world needs you.
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You won't see the sunrise or have your favorite breakfast in the morning.

Instead, your family will mourn the sunrise because it means another day without you.

You will never stay up late talking to your friends or have a bonfire on a summer night.

You won't laugh until you cry again, or dance around and be silly.

You won't go on another adventure. You won't drive around under the moonlight and stars.

They'll miss you. They'll cry.

You won't fight with your siblings only to make up minutes later and laugh about it.

You won't get to interrogate your sister's fiancé when the time comes.

You won't be there to wipe away your mother's tears when she finds out that you're gone.

You won't be able to hug the ones that love you while they're waiting to wake up from the nightmare that had become their reality.

You won't be at your grandparents funeral, speaking about the good things they did in their life.

Instead, they will be at yours.

You won't find your purpose in life, the love of your life, get married or raise a family.

You won't celebrate another Christmas, Easter or birthday.

You won't turn another year older.

You will never see the places you've always dreamed of seeing.

You will not allow yourself the opportunity to get help.

This will be the last sunset you see.

You'll never see the sky change from a bright blue to purples, pinks, oranges, and yellows meshing together over the landscape again.

If the light has left your eyes and all you see is the darkness, know that it can get better. Let yourself get better.

This is what you will miss if you leave the world today.

This is who will care about you when you are gone.

You can change lives. But I hope it's not at the expense of yours.

We care. People care.

Don't let today be the end.

You don't have to live forever sad. You can be happy. It's not wrong to ask for help.

Thank you for staying. Thank you for fighting.

Suicide is a real problem that no one wants to talk about. I'm sure you're no different. But we need to talk about it. There is no difference between being suicidal and committing suicide. If someone tells you they want to kill themselves, do not think they won't do it. Do not just tell them, “Oh you'll be fine." Because when they aren't, you will wonder what you could have done to help. Sit with them however long you need to and tell them it will get better. Talk to them about their problems and tell them there is help. Be the help. Get them assistance. Remind them of all the things they will miss in life.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: Brittani Norman

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Your Health Journey Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Perfection takes time.

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When you first start to do something, you have all of the motivation in the world to accomplish that goal set out in front of you, especially when it comes to being healthier. The problem is as you continue through this journey and food and laziness kick in, motivation slips. It's human, and it happens to everyone no matter how physically strong they are.

Trying to be healthier doesn't always mean losing weight. It can be so your knees don't ache as much, so you don't feel as out of breath climbing stairs, or any goal you have set for yourself. Being healthier is personal and different from person to person.

I will be the first to admit that there are plenty of changes I would love to make about myself. From my weight to my body type and many other things about myself inside and out. I am by no means the most confident person about how I look, but I have worked hard for the past year to be an overall healthier person.

Becoming healthier isn't about looking thinner or fitting into a specific size of clothes. It is about taking care of yourself from eating better to working out more. There comes a feeling of confidence in what your body can do if you put a little love in it.

Perfection takes time, and I know firsthand how frustrating trying to be healthier can be.

Pizza tastes so much better than salad. It is so easy to fall into a rhythm of something that seems never to change whether that is your weight or your mile time. Sadly, you can't build a city, or become healthier overnight.

We see people who are thinner, curvier, smarter, faster, and so much more than us. We all waste time comparing ourselves to people around us and on our timelines, but some of our biggest strengths are our individuality and the gift of getting back up after falling down.

All I can say is, please don't give up on your goal of being healthier because this is solely for you. We can have a great support system in the world and have everyone in our corner, but that isn't enough.

You need yourself. You need to know that if you don't entirely put yourself in this journey, then you won't fully succeed. Your commitment to bettering yourself can keep you going even if you want to give up.

Your motivation may not be at its peak level right now, and you may have every cell in your body screaming at you to quit. Don't do it. Prove to yourself that you can keep going no matter what. Not giving up will be worth it. The results and taking the hard way will make you a stronger person inside and out.

You can do this. You can do anything you want to accomplish if you just believe in yourself. You need to understand that becoming healthier takes endurance. There will be periods where you slow down and may not be going at your fastest pace. The difference is that you are not giving up and you are still trying and moving.

Don't treat becoming healthier as a sprint: short term and quick. That mentality will only leave you feeling deflated and defeated. It is a life-long marathon of pacing yourself and pushing yourself further than ever before.

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