Why testing my DNA was the best thing I ever did

Why testing my DNA was the best thing I ever did:

I have no need to know where my ancestors come from, or whether they were vikings or celts. My lineage is of little interest to me. I’m a South African living the melting pot society dream where we celebrate our uniqueness and our commonalities simultaneously. 

What is of interest to me however is my health! What is in my genes? 

For the longest time, I was afraid of of getting diabetes. There is loads of it on my mom’s side of the family. In fact I have grandmothers, great grandmothers and great aunts that died from this dreaded disease. Granted, some of it was in the days before there was a treatment. However, the point is that if it’s coming for me, it’s of a particularly nasty strain. My uncle has it and I don’t envy him.

It came as almost heaven sent information when I found out that, by testing your DNA, you can get an idea of what’s waiting for you, in your genes. With a simple buccal swab in the mouth, you hand in your saliva sample, and you get the results two weeks later.

The doctor that presented me with my results, Dr Christa North, was gentle, and thorough. She spent a lot of time explaining everything in great detail. I found out all sorts of things, including why I feel at my best in the afternoons, what I should and should not eat, what deficiencies I have, and why I never stop eating (true story!)

When we got to the part about Diabetes, whadoyaknow….  there it was. I have the gene that indicates that my chances of getting it are real. Red, red and more red! My heart sank.

And this is when things started to change. You see, the doctor explained… it’s not about the fact that you have a chance of getting it, or that it’s in your genes. It’s about how you use this information to avoid it! DNA is a trigger and knowing what your DNA looks like enables you to work around it and prevent it being triggered. 

Thanks to a good friend who works in the pharmaceutical industry, I was able to get an appointment with one of they country’s top endocrinologists.

He gave me three very important steps to follow:

  • Cut out all sugar. Specifically fizzy drinks (as they are the most harmful), but best to cut out all sugar.
  • Start exercising. Your fitness in your forties has a major impact on your health in later decades. Three times a week is a minus but 4 – 5 times is ideal. 
  • Don’t pick up weight! The fatty band that women get around their tummies can be very harmful in the onset of diabetes.  

And from now on, September is blood test month! Every year, I will now be going for a blood test to see what’s going on, on the diabetes front. Until then, I keep living, and more importantly, living more healthily! 

So, as much as I got the answer that I did not want to hear at all, I now understand that I can play a role in living healthily, and preventing or at least slowing down the onset of diabetes. Truth be told, I had always taken my extremely good health for granted. The advice I was given is perhaps common sense and part of living a healthy life. In retrospect, it’s silly that it had to get to this point for me to make these changes, but I am extremely thankful that I know what I now do. 

And that is why testing my DNA was the best thing I ever did. I tested mine through www.geneway.co.za and would recommend it to anyone wanting to unlock the keys to good health and live your best life.

Jenny Griesel Photographer: Anthony Horak

 

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