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Home Genetic tests

The explosion in the field of genetics has brought the inevitable commercialization of genetic tests that can be done in the privacy of one’s home and the results are sent back directly to the individual. That means that neither your family physician nor a trained geneticist are available to help you interpret the findings. For some tests that doesn’t matter but for an ever-growing number it does.

If you’re simply curious about your ancestry there isn’t much that needs interpretation. Tests that promise to reveal your risks of diseases such as breast cancer or Alzheimer’s disease are much more complicated. Some tests determine if you are a carrier of a disease such as cystic fibrosis but even that condition is associated with several genes, not just one.

One of the pitfalls of genetic testing, even that which is done in a highly sophisticated laboratory, is that it won’t help you to change your lifestyle so that you can avoid it. Before you take an in-home test, discuss it with your doctor. You might save some anxiety as well as money.

Lifestyle

Exercise: it doesn’t have to be all at once.

For persons who have a job and a family, time is precious and devoting an hour or so to walking, jogging or a trip to the gym is just not likely except on the weekend, if then. Two points to keep in mind are that all physical activity is beneficial and it doesn’t have to be done all at once. After all, that’s how your great-grandparents avoided becoming obese. In the early 20th century the rate of obesity in the United States was five percent! Many lived on farms with few labor-saving devices and city folks walked almost everywhere. Their tools and home appliances were powered by hand.

If you’re a walker you can split it into one 15-30-minute session during lunch break and another right after work. You don’t need to sweat, just raise your heart rate. For resistance exercise you can keep light dumbbells or elastic bands handy at your place of business, maybe even share them with a couple of coworkers. Even if you don’t grunt, groan and sweat, that activity will increase blood flow to your muscles and heart. If you want to you can have a heavier workout on the weekend.

Retired? Not only do you not have the excuse of too little time, you’re at the age when physical activity really matters. The vast majority of 60-year-olds are overweight and about one third (!) are diabetic or prediabetic. Losing just a few pounds and keeping them off will help you to avoid the nasty complications (blindness, kidney failure, amputation) that make type 2 diabetes the ruination of a happy retirement.

 

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