What Can You Learn From a Genetics Test

As a board-certified family medicine physician with significant expertise and specialized certifications in heart health and heart attack prevention, Dr. Lafferty is happy to share some of his insights regarding what he learns from genetic testing and what it can mean for your health.

It’s not a new science

Every time you’re asked to fill in the blanks on a family medical history form, your doctor is trying to identify diseases that may affect your own private gene pool. We aren’t judging. We’re just trying to protect your health and well being.

Physicians and researchers noticed some time ago that patients with diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and a whole host of other medical conditions often have ancestors who had the same issues.

Based on study results, doctors developed diets and exercise plans, prescribed medication, and other therapies designed to help you avoid disease or provide the best treatment possible for a current condition.

As part of the preventive healthcare model, we use this knowledge to hopefully lessen the effects that high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, and other issues may have on your health.

But we’re not all the same

Many of our patients do respond positively to medication and lifestyle changes, such as increased physical activity and improved nutrition with better cholesterol profiles, decreased blood pressures, and an overall reduction in health risks. But many don’t.

And many patients don’t have the “average” reaction when it comes to treatment tools in our kit, such as statins, a medication designed to keep your cholesterol under control. Because of certain side effects or lack of effectiveness, we’re sometimes forced to select your medicine based on a trial and error process that can take months to complete.

And there are always those individuals who develop serious medical conditions despite a seemingly low-risk profile. You may eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and follow all the preventive guidelines but still develop heart disease, diabetes, or another chronic illness.

Genetics testing helps us understand why you may respond so differently to the same medication your neighbor takes or develop diabetes when you’ve always had healthy habits.

How we use the specifics of your genetic testing

When it comes to cardiovascular (heart) disease, a one-time test lets us define certain traits in your genetic makeup that may affect your heart health as well as how you may respond to certain medications or preventive regimens, such as low-dose aspirin therapy.

Some individuals with a certain genotype may respond quite well to low doses of aspirin taken to help prevent blood clots leading to heart attacks or stroke. If you have a different genotype, however, your risk of gastrointestinal bleeding may far outweigh any benefits of taking a daily dose of aspirin.

Some heart-specific genotypes that can influence your care include:

Genetic testing is not an exact science

Although genetic testing has greatly refined our ability to detect potential health risks, a certain genotype doesn’t always mean you’ll develop a specific disease. And a negative study doesn’t completely eliminate your risks. Your best defense against future illness includes healthy nutrition, physical activity, and routine visits for health care screening, which may include genetic testing. And we’ll still want to know about your family history.

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