What DNA Told Me: An RA Story

Last year, my husband, Greg, and I bought the kits you see advertised on TV to test DNA and offer a look into our ethnicity. The analysis revealed mostly what we already knew of our ancestry, and introduced us to our distance ancestors and their heritage. For Greg, Eastern European was a given with his Great-Grandparents immigrating from Zatvarnika, Austria, now Poland. His family’s history of immigrating Irish in the mid-1850’s showed up in his 30% Irish DNA.

My heritage is 45% German/French (European West), with a descending amount of Great Britain, Spanish, and Irish/Scotland/Wales:

Research on DNA and siblings reveals we may have a different concoction of ethnicity, even though we came from the same set of parents. My sister, Lynn, may be more of a percentage of Irish/Scotland/Wales, and my sister, Sheila, more of Great Britain descent. My brother, Chris, may have had more German/French ethnicity than us all, but we will never know. Chris passed away from a heart-attack at age 49 in August of 2015.

Greg and I found a comprehensive website to upload our raw DNA and receive, for $5, a health analysis of DNA to reveal genetic markers for specific diseases – www.promethease.com. Promethease takes raw DNA data and compiles a report through data supplied by SNPedia.com, a wiki investigating human genetics. The report is for personal and educational purposes only and does not provide diagnostics of actual diseases (full disclaimer on the website).

I was curious and used it to determine certain risk factors I may need to look out for – especially with a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Greg, who is 57 years old and has very few health issues, wanted to see his genetic factor for Alzheimer’s or other diseases that may impact his life. The highest risk genetic factor was Male Pattern Baldness – and he has a full head of hair. He laughed at the result.

My report included higher risk factors for Rheumatoid ArthritisCoronary Artery Disease, (likely so did my brother), Type 2 Diabetes, and Prostate Cancer. Both my father, who is cancer free 8+ years, and his father, my Granddad Howard, had prostate cancer. I seem to be a carrier of the gene, but still looking into what this may mean for a female. Then there are the two odd ones:

1.) My body may not produce appropriate levels of Tyrosine, and therefore low levels of dopamine – I now take a supplement called L-tyrosine; and
2.) My body may not be able to detoxify byproducts of medications, i.e. certain antineoplastic and immunosuppressant drugs – my Rheumatologist and I monitor my blood work carefully and thoughtfully.

These revelations were helpful and I took them as they were intended – as supplemental information. My cardiologist checked the health of my heart – passed a stress test with flying colors this past summer; I eat a healthy diet and watch my weight – to counter my disposition for diabetes – yet I still may develop it one day; and I see my Internal Medicine physician, who is my Expert Advocate, to keep an eye on overall health and work with my Specialists, cardiologist, rheumatologist, dermatologist, etc. to maintain my best health.

This is how God made me, designed through the genetics passed down from generation to generation on my mother’s side and my father’s side. I am mindful of the DNA which is the foundation for my physiological makeup. I use the information to make wise choices, without emotion or great anxiety. It is a manual on what MAY go wrong along the way, but not a definitive factor in WHO I truly am – God’s perfectly made being. I have peace with how He made me, risky genetics and all.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
~ Psalm 139:14 NIV