For our Biology, Culture, and Evolution class, we had the opportunity to have our DNA tested for various health and ancestry markers. I have been reluctant to blog about this experience because some of the information I learned was shocking at first. I think now that I have had some time to wrap my mind around my results, I am much more comfortable sharing.
4: It helps you prepare for your future health.
Even though the information provided by 23andMe is by no means a diagnosis or set-in-stone, the information has helped me plan what I need to prioritize as far as my health is concerned. Doctors have all these recommendations about when you need to get tested and what you need to be tested for, but the list can seem endless. Who has time for all that anyway? I now know what I need to look out for and what specific steps I can take to be proactive about my health. Although I feel that this portion of the results was the most useful, in my opinion, it was also the most difficult for me to process.
Even though my risk is most elevated for Type 2 diabetes, my lifestyle choices do not put me at high risk for developing it. The two I was most worried about upon receiving my results were atrial fibrillation and alzheimer's. I have suffered from heart palpitations before when I was experiencing stress. I also have a family history of alzheimer's disease, but it is so far removed from me (great-great grandparent or something) I never thought I could suffer from it. This was the worst information for me to learn, I think, and the reason why I took so long to blog about my experience with 23andMe. In my head, I'm aware that my results aren't a diagnosis, but the information shocked me anyway. Despite the difficulty, I am glad to have participated. I would always rather know the risks than be blissfully ignorant.
3: You can learn things about your ancestry you didn't know (or confirm what you did know).
Can you believe it?! I definitely could. The reason I found this part of the results so interesting is because it confirmed what I knew about my ancestry COMPLETELY. I knew before hand that I am descended from Irish and German ancestors, which are exactly the results I got.
It's kinda neat to have a firmer grasp on me heritage than before. Another cool feature of the ancestry results is their assessment of your Neanderthal ancestry. According to my results, I am in the 94th percentile of all users since 3% of my DNA is associated with Neanderthals. I think this number is the highest in my class, although I'm not positive. Apparently some of my ancestors were getting down and dirty with some of our Neanderthal neighbors. I can dig it.
2: You may meet family members you didn't even know you had.
This consequence from 23andMe was a complete surprise. I have been contacted by nearly a dozen people who share enough genetic markers with me to be cousins. To be clear, the only information these people are given is that we might be cousins. When you see someone who might be related to you, you have the option to contact them, and then the recipient of your request will need to accept it before you can communicate back and forth. Even if you choose to communicate with one another, you can opt to hide your results from them if you feel uncomfortable. The closest relatives I have on 23andMe are possible 2nd and 3rd cousins, but I have been contacted by multiple possible 4th cousins. One even sent me a family tree, asking me to place myself on the tree where I fit in based on my knowledge of my family history. I don't have a fun picture to use here, since the family tree is 40 pages long and may have information others on the tree don't want to share. But it's pretty cool to think about!
1: Sometimes, it's like a freakin' crystal ball!
I've already said how uncanny it was to have 23andMe affirm my ancestry. Here's some more of my crazy accurate results.
If you remember the picture of me from above, the eye color/straight hair stuff is spot on. The rest of it is pretty darn accurate too (of course, I wouldn't know anything about my alcohol flush reaction, not being 21 and all). These results also labeled me as lactose tolerant, which is true. I think learning new information about my genome was interesting, but seeing how it mirrored what I already knew about myself made the results even more exciting. I guess validation can be pretty exciting.
All-in-all, I am very grateful I had the opportunity to participate in 23andMe testing. The anxiety I felt when I first received my results is more a consequence of being a constant worrier. Now that I've had time to sit on the information, I welcome the future with open arms, hoping that I have little more knowledge moving forward.