How To Get The Absolute Best Out of Your Genes

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While our DNA can be influential in determining many aspects of our lives—such as the color of our hair, body type, intelligence, or even what types of foods we like—genetics do not completely control our destiny, no matter what Darth Vader would have you believe.

“Your genes do guide you and guide your development. They make you more likely to be tall than short or more likely to be athletic, or smarter, or better at math, et cetera. But they are not everything,” Puya Yazdi, MD, Chief Science Officer at SelfDecode, a genome analysis company, explains to The Remedy. “Your environment, what you do, is also important.”

In fact, there is an entire science devoted to epigenetics—how environmental factors can actually modify our genes. In theory, the more we know about our genetics, we can actually modify our behaviors as well as our environment to maximize their potential. Think of it like this: your genes might make you more likely to be a great basketball player. However, if you sit on your butt eating nothing but McDonald’s and playing video games you won’t ever be LeBron James.

Read on to discover 13 ways you’ll be able to use your genes to be happier and healthier.

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You Can Use Them to Make Better Decisions About Your Health

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With current resources, such as at-home DNA tests, it’s easier than ever to use your genetics to maximize your health, explains Dr. Yazdi. For instance, getting tested for BRCA genes can tell a woman if she is at increased risk for breast cancer. If she is, this can help her pursue more aggressive screening to improve her health—and possibly save her life. “Based on your genetics, we can tell people if they should avoid certain medications,” he adds. “So we can right now use our genetics to make better-informed health decisions to maximize our own life.” See how one man did just that—and how you can too—with this revealingly true story: I Did a DNA Test and Here’s What I Learned.

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You Can Use Them to Predict the Likelihood of Chronic Diseases

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Because genetics can effectively predict your likelihood of developing certain health conditions —especially ones that are preventable—you can take measures ahead of time to protect yourself. “So someone who is at high risk for diabetes“—or cardiovascular disease—”can maximize her own genes by simply dieting and exercising and eating right to prevent it,” Dr. Yazdi says.

RELATED: 40 Health Warnings You Should Never Ignore

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You Can Discover if You Have Genetic Variants

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“There is one area of health testing that can provide serious health benefits, and that is genetic disease and carrier screening,” says Tim Barclay, Senior Editor of the DNA Health testing website Innerbody.com. “Essentially, we know pretty accurately which specific genes are associated with some deadly diseases, such as:

  • breast cancer
  • early-onset Alzheimer’s disease
  • Celiac disease 
  • age-related macular degeneration, 
  • Parkinson’s disease.”

Barclay is not only a genetic testing enthusiast—he has a Ph.D. in genetics and has worked for the leading health DNA testing company, 23andMe, as a Senior Scientist in the Health Genetics division. He continues: “Carrier screening is a type of genetic test that can tell you whether or not you carry genetic variants associated with certain genetic disorders. Most of the time, these variants will not affect you directly, but you may pass them on to your children. Examples of diseases that can be passed on in this way include: 

  • cystic fibrosis 
  • sickle cell anemia
  • hereditary hearing loss.”

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Your DNA Could Help Your Doctor

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“Overall, DNA tests should be in more primary care physicians’ hands,” says Craig Calderone, who is a founder of DNA ID — a patient-centric research platform focused around genomic data. “There is a movement towards precision medicine for the individual rather than overarching mass-produced medicine. Having access to a DNA test results could aid in the decision towards prescribing a certain drug or not depending on the known interaction with certain genes in the body.”

RELATED: The 40 Secrets Your Doctor Won’t Tell You

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You Can Use Them to Predict Your Career Path

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Your genetics can determine your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to intellect, explains Dr. Yazdi, and you could hypothetically choose your career accordingly. While the technology isn’t quite there yet, this can be done in a “crude and inexact way.” “We can roughly tell someone if they are more likely to be creative or more likely to be good at math just based on their genetics,” he points out. “So in theory, you will end up a better mathematician than a painter based on your genes if you apply yourself maximally to both.” 

7

You Can Use Them to Target Weaknesses

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If your genetics make you better at math than drawing, you can use that as motivation to work harder at drawing than math. “You are not a slave to your genetics,” reminds Dr. Yazdi. “It’s how you use that information that matters.”

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You Can Use Them to Change Your Lifestyle

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If you are aware of potential health complications, you can use your genetics to help make important life choices—such as where to live. “If your genetics make you more likely to develop asthma or have breathing problems or more likely to have an increased inflammatory response to things you could use that information to decide where to live,” Dr. Yazdi points out. In addition, it can help you choose supplements, a good diet, and what type of pets to have.

RELATED: 38 Ways to Live Healthy

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They Can Inform Your Diet

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Speaking of diets, you can use your genetics to maximize your food and beverage choices. “You can beat your own genetics in some fashion,” Dr. Yazdi points out. For example, if you are more prone to be sensitive to carbs perhaps a low carb diet would be better for you. If you are more sensitive to resistance training, perhaps that is the better exercise plan. “In a way, we can use our own genetics to guide us to make us the best version of ourselves!” he explains.

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Soon, Our Genetics Might be Able to Powerfully Impact Our Mental Health

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According to Dr. Yazdi, pretty soon we will also be able to use our genetics to even personalize therapy, choose more effective drugs, and identify things to avoid. “In a way, knowing our genetics can give us information that can guide our best health decisions,” Dr. Yazdi says. 

11

In the Future, We Might Even be Able to Use our Genetics to “Fix Our DNA”

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Dr. Yazi explains that the study of genetics may soon help us live longer and healthier lives. “Part of this will simply be deciding what optimal diet strategies to take, the exact foods to eat, the exact amounts of vitamins you will take, but in the future, our own children will be able to actually change their DNA to prevent diseases and even improve their health,” he explains. 

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We Will Even be Able to Change Our DNA

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Dr. Yazi reveals that it’s very likely that sometime in the not-so far off future, we will be able to alter our genetics completely. “If some genes make you better at math, why not simply change the DNA to make everyone better at math, or make everyone be more athletic?” he says. “The realm of science fiction will become a reality for perhaps our grandchildren if not our own children.”

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Most Importantly, Genes Can Remind Us That the Choices We Make, Matter

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Dr. Yazi stresses the importance of using our genetics to remind us just how similar we are as a species, and how what we do with our lives matters as much as what we are born with. “No matter what our DNA says about our likelihood of being smarter or stronger, without passion and dedication, we can’t achieve or maximize our own potential,” he points out. Additionally, no matter what our DNA says to make us unique, the great majority of our DNA is very similar to other people’s DNA. “What genetics really tells us is that we are unique and born with different capabilities but we are still one species and all related to one another and still have the choice to decide what we want to do and who we want to be,” he continues. “That is the greatest thing about knowing our genetics. The realization that we are not prisoners to it and the realization that as unique as it makes us we are more similar to each other than we think!” And to further increase your chances of living longer, don’t miss this essential list of 70 Things You Should Never Do For Your Health.



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