Wellness has been the buzz-word for the past five years, with a drastic rise in individuals seeking life balance, mindfulness techniques, nutrition advice, organic foods, plant-based diets, BPA-free tableware and natural supplements.
And this shift of getting to know our bodies more is undeniably a good thing. We're doing our own research and taking our health into our own hands. Whereas 'wellness' used to be something people sought after a health-scare, these days we are taking the mantra 'prevention is the best medicine' as literally as we possibly can.
In the past five years, I've undergone my own personal wellness transformation, after being unwell with persistent and debilitating stomach issues for almost a decade. I was fed up of my body (or more specifically, my digestive system) dictating how I lived my life. It was time for a change. And overnight, I started to listen to my body more. I gave up foods that it disliked. I treated it well. And it repaid me by feeling great.
But of course, there's no definitive simple 'fix'. Getting to know your body and taking control of your health is an ongoing process. In fact, the very definition of 'wellness' itself is 'the state of being in good health, as an actively pursued goal.'
Often it is difficult however, to know where to start when it comes to individual health. Are there certain things to look out for? Warning signs? Common indicators that something is wrong? Change is easier when you have somewhere to start.
Which is why, for me, it was great to have a starting point - a test that flags some issues it would be beneficial to look out for, as a preventative measure. Last year, I took the Atlas Biomed DNA test - you can watch my reaction to the results here and was amazed by how much information the test offers.
AD - This is a paid partnership with Atlas Biomed.
In addition to telling you interesting 'personal traits' such as whether you are predisposed to early greying (I'm not), strong body odour (yep, unfortunately me) and whether you have a photic sneeze reflex (mine is high - and this is true, I'm always sneezing whenever I see bright lights), it also highlights your disease risks.
These risks are calculated on 'disease prevalence' percentage (statistical data on the prevalence in women) and your individual genetic impact (identified genetic factors increase disease risk and if these are found in your genes, they are highlighted).
Being at risk of a disease does not mean you are sick, it just means you have a marginally higher probability of developing this condition in your lifetime. For example, my only red flag disease was 'bronchial asthma', which is not something I suffer from, but I have a risk profile of 10.49% of developing it.
This is a combined percentage of 6.40% statical data on the prevalence in women and 4.09% of my individual gene make-up, where certain genes have been identified as an increased disease risk of bronchial asthma.
The test also identifies whether you are a carrier of certain conditions, which is something of note if you are looking to have children, and also looks at the diversity of your microbiome. In total, one test alone offers results on over 400 traits, so it's a really insightful way of getting to know your body better.
DECODING THE RESULTS
Although the results are displayed in a very easy-to-read format, in plain English and with helpful descriptions - Atlas Biomed also offer a new service called Genetic Counselling, to assist in making the most of your results and decoding how you can use them in pursuit of wellness.
Obviously genetic predispositions cannot be changed, but you can alter lifestyle and nutritional factors (which the site also takes into account), which contribute to how likely it is these diseases are going to affect you.
Naturally, I was intrigued to try this service out in order to discuss my results and my genetic health risks, and ask questions on which lifestyle factors could help improve my disease risk profile.
So, I booked in a 30 minute session with Atlas Biomed's Genetic Counsellor Erin (I'd recommend doing this during a time you can sit quietly, without interruption and also with a notepad handy - so you can really make the most of it) and loaded up my results page while I waited for the call.
After an initial reassurance about genetic dispositions and how they do not infer you WILL get these diseases, like with my asthma risk - while there was a 10.49% risk I may suffer with it in my lifetime, there is an 89.51% chance that I won't - Erin delved into my individual results.
One of my 'orange flags' was Ulcerative Colitis, which is something I've already been tested for several times by my doctor - but it was interesting to know that I was predisposed to it and Erin explained how lifestyle factors can alter your risk.
Nipping my digestive issues in the bud early, by focusing on healthy eating, exercise and reducing stress has probably helped to curb the risk even further.
However for someone who perhaps didn't know about this risk already but might be suffering from symptoms relating to the condition, the consultation can help decode whether you might need to consult your GP for further diagnostic testing.
One very insightful part of the consultation was the information on being a 'carrier' of certain conditions, as these are things you and your partner could potentially pass onto your children.
Thankfully, I wasn't a carrier for any of the conditions that Atlas Biomed test for (they don't test for everything, but a wide variety of conditions) but the genetic counsellor works with families that are carriers of hereditary disease and can advise parents on what this means for their children or future children.
Another aspect of the Atlas Biomed DNA Test is the testing for hereditary breast cancer. Obviously this is a very emotional subject, especially if you or loved ones have been affected by cancer in the past. However I do think it is important to identify whether you have increased risks of any of the hereditary cancers, so that you can make an informed decision on your future.
Thankfully, my Atlas Biomed DNA Test didn't pick up on any hereditary cancer risks within my profile, however a 40-year-old woman with a family history of breast cancer took the Atlas Biomed DNA Test and the results indicated that she was a carrier of a BRCA1 gene variant that is associated with increased risk of breast cancer.
As mentioned above, a genetic predisposition to disease does not necessarily mean it will emerge, so in this case, the consultation with the genetic counsellor was a helpful step in determining next steps. Her consultation with a geneticist started off a series of additional examinations, screenings and diagnostics that ultimately led a mastectomy as the most effective option to prevent risk cancer.
Now I wasn't including this story to scare you, but to highlight how identifying risks can help us take control of our health and prevent disease. Atlas Biomed offers the DNA Test as a simple and smart way to get to know your body better, with evidence based technology helping to prevent potentially seriously issues before they appear.
Preparation is key to prevention and being equipped with knowledge about your body is an undeniably effective way to invoke good habits, a healthy lifestyle and overall pursuit of wellness.
I think we owe it to our bodies - the incredibly hard-working machines they are - to take control of our health, learn about how we can protect it from disease and to understand what risks we might need to look out for in the future.
Is genetic counselling or DNA testing something you would be interested in looking into?