YourDNA’s Guide to DNA Testing for Longevity
DNA tests are voluntary studies performed on a sample of fluid or tissue collected from an individual.
The sample is processed by a laboratory professional and analyzed for variations in specific genes, chromosomes, or proteins. These variations can provide clues to your overall well being, your risk of developing certain health conditions, and even your longevity.
Here, we’ll walk you through how DNA tests can reveal useful information about aging in addition to your personal disease risk profile.
If you’re interested in DNA testing for aging, consider scheduling a consultation with a genetic counselor who is authorized to order genetic tests. Why? These healthcare professionals will help you understand the benefits and limitations of each DNA test, so you can choose which test is right for you.
Genetic counselors also thoroughly review DNA testing results in combination with your medical history so you can fully understand what your results mean, allowing you to make informed decisions about your health.
How do DNA Tests Work?
DNA, short for deoxyribonucleic acid, contains instructions for our bodies and our health.
It is responsible for determining our personal traits, like eye color and blood type, and also carries information about our predisposition for certain conditions. DNA is found in every single cell in our bodies. It is inherited from each one of our parents, and it is passed onto our children — it’s what makes each one of us unique.
A DNA test analyzes DNA found in a sample of tissue or fluid from the body to identify your specific genetic variants. The genetic variants that you’ve inherited from your mother and father provide insight into your family history, your personal health, nutrition tendencies, and your risk of developing certain health conditions such as high blood pressure.
Each and every cell in the body contains the same DNA. This means that a sample for DNA testing can be taken from anywhere, like blood, skin cells, or saliva.
DNA tests can be performed using a wide range of tissue as a sample. Some commonly used methods for collecting a sample for longevity and aging testing include either collecting a blood sample or performing a cheek swab.
Once collected, the sample is processed to isolate the DNA and then analyze it through special processing.
A blood test analyzes DNA found in a sample of blood. There are two ways to collect a blood sample: venous blood draw and a finger prick.
In order to collect a venous blood sample, a needle is inserted into a vein in the arm by a licensed health professional (usually a nurse or a lab technician) and a small amount of blood is collected into a special tube. In some cases, a DNA test will simply require a drop or two of blood that can be obtained from a finger prick.
A cheek swab analyzes DNA from skin cells found on the inside of the cheek. Moving a cotton swab along the inside of the cheek is all that is needed for sample collection. When performing a cheek swab, you will most likely be instructed not to eat, drink, chew gum, smoke, or brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes before the sample is collected.
What is a Genetic Age Test?
A genetic age test is a DNA test that analyzes one or more indicators to reveal your biological age, compared to your chronological age (the number of years you’ve lived).
Specific indicators, or biological markers, can include changes to specific genes associated with aging (called epigenetic testing) or cellular structures that give clues to your risk of developing age-related conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease.
Chronological age does not guarantee the onset of age-related conditions: When we look at multiple individuals that are 60 years of age, we can see that the overall health among this group varies. This is why biological age may be a parameter of interest.
Genetic age tests are becoming more popular because they claim to be able to predict the likelihood that you’ll live to 100 years old. The results from a genetic age test can be motivating for individuals who wish to make changes to their daily routine in order to avoid developing diseases of aging, like dementia or high blood pressure.
When working with a physician who knows your medical history, genetic age testing can help you make informed decisions regarding your health.
Home test kit
Genetic testing has become much more convenient and sought after in the past decade. Today, companies like 23andMe, Helix, Heritage, and TeloYears offer genetic testing that provides insight into your genetic risks or genetic mutations that can increase your risk of developing age-related conditions.
Furthermore, these tests can be delivered right to your home. You can order the test directly from a testing company without the need for a doctor’s visit, referred to as direct-to-consumer genetic testing. You take the sample using a cheek swab and send it back to the company for analysis.
For other tests, you may be required to speak with a healthcare professional who will then order the home test kit for you. Some testing companies have affiliated physicians that are available to work with individuals who do not have a primary care physician.
However, the availability of at-home genetic testing depends on where you live. For example, Maryland and New York do not allow laboratory tests to be marketed directly to consumers.
How accurate is a genetic age test?
Although genetic age testing has proven to provide a fairly accurate estimate of your biological age, there is still ongoing research in the field to verify and confirm the accuracy of various genetic age tests. For example, the results from a single genetic age test may not provide sufficient information to make informed decisions about your health.
For example, telomere testing, a type of test that measures the length of chromosomal telomeres, provides a more accurate picture of how your body is aging when a test is performed once a year. This allows scientists to see the behavior of the telomeres and whether they are in fact changing in length.
Results from one test will provide your telomere length, but if there isn’t a control or base measurement to compare to, this information won’t be enough for a comprehensive look at your health.
Can DNA Tests Predict How Long You Will Live?
DNA tests can give clues as to how old your body is, or your biological age, as well as your risk of developing an age-related disease, like Alzheimer’s.
However, this information alone is not enough to provide an accurate depiction of how long you will live. Yes, a DNA test can provide additional information that can help your physician or genetic counselor predict your lifespan.
But these results should always be considered alongside other factors, such as your family health history, your current health, and your current lifestyle habits.
DNA testing companies claim to be able to predict the likelihood that you will live to 100 years old. However, human longevity is a measurement that involves analyzing one’s genes, the environment, and daily lifestyle choices, such as what you eat and how active you are, to determine how long an individual is likely to live.
Although current DNA tests focus on measuring your biological age, scientists are currently researching longevity genes — genes that are thought to contribute to a longer lifespan. The genes of individuals who are 90 years or older are being analyzed to understand what genetic factors contribute to their long life.
Although this research is still currently active, it is hoped that in the near future scientists will identify the genes directly related to human longevity, as well as what factors contribute to the lifespan of individuals who live longer lives.
How Much Do DNA Tests for Longevity and Aging Cost?
At-home test kits from companies like 23andMe, Helix, Heritage, and Teloyears have made genetic testing accessible to the average citizen.
The price of a home test kit can range from less than $100 to $400, depending on the type of test performed. These kits are generally not covered by insurance, so the cost will come from the consumer.
The results of an at-home DNA test may prompt you to seek more information. In this case, you can make an appointment with your physician or a genetic counselor who can order more in-depth genetic testing, if recommended.
Physician prescribed DNA tests are more comprehensive, and therefore more expensive than at-home kits. For example, a tumor DNA sequencing test could cost roughly $6,000, and cost varies according to the specific tests ordered.
Although this is a significant number, some physician prescribed DNA tests may be covered by insurance. If you’re considering additional genetic testing that has been recommended by your physician, call your insurance provider to ask if DNA testing is included under your plan.
One important thing to note is that the results of DNA tests, when covered by health insurance, may affect your life insurance coverage. Meaning that if a gene test reveals that you’re at risk for a certain condition, your life insurance company could increase your rates.
Ask your physician or genetic counselor about your state-specific privacy protection laws regarding DNA testing and insurance coverage.
Best Telomere Age DNA Tests
Telomere age DNA testing is a technology that reveals an individual’s cellular age compared to his or her numerical age using a blood sample.
One company, called TeloYears, has been leading the market in telomere testing. In fact, it is considered to be the best direct-to-consumer telomere age DNA test available today.
Along with the test results, TeloYears offers coaching services that put the test results in context.
Scientists have developed a gene test that measures the length of structures found on chromosomes, called telomeres. Telomeres are located on both ends of chromosomes and act as a cap to protect the DNA strand in the chromosome from fraying.
This allows for cell division and replication (a process called mitosis) without damage to our DNA. As we age, telomeres become shorter until, eventually, the cell is no longer able to replicate.
Telomeres can also become shorter with certain lifestyle habits, like smoking, stress, poor diet, and lack of exercise.
A telomere measurement is a biomarker, like blood pressure and cholesterol, that can be used to better understand your genetic or biological age. Biological age is determined based on a comparison of your telomere length to individuals of the same age.
Multiple studies have shown a correlation between shorter telomere length and cellular age — shorter telomeres correlate with a more advanced biological age, while longer telomeres correlate to a younger biological age.
Since telomeres can get shorter with age and certain lifestyle habits, researchers believe that shorter telomeres can possibly become longer if you begin to exercise regularly, quit smoking, and eat a well-balanced diet. The results of telomere testing can inspire individuals to lead a healthier lifestyle and make smart choices regarding their well being.
It’s important to note that although individuals around the same age may have similar telomere lengths, each individual has a unique length. For this reason, a series of telomere tests is recommended.
By comparing multiple test results over the course of a few years, physicians and genetic counselors can more accurately assess your biological age and genetic health.
Telomere testing reviews
Now that you know how telomere testing works, are you interested in learning what users think about the test? You can find telomere testing reviews for TeloYears on websites like Top 10 DNA Tests, DNA Testing Choice and the TeloYears official review page.
DNA Tests for Cancer
Cancer develops when abnormal cells continue to divide without control, destroying normal tissues around the body.
This overgrowth of cells can cause a mass or a tumor to form; however, this isn’t always the case. For example, with cancers of the blood, such as leukemia, a tumor will not form.
Although some lifestyle habits, such as smoking, have been identified as causes of cancer, in the past few decades scientists have identified numerous genetic variants and genetic mutations linked to cancer. It’s important to note that inheriting a genetic variant associated with a certain type of cancer does not guarantee that you will develop cancer, but it does increase your risk.
Today, at-home DNA test kits analyze specific genetic variations associated with certain types of cancers, like prostate cancer, leukemia, and breast cancer. However, These kits do not screen for all known genetic mutations associated with cancer development.
For example, an at-home test kit might test for three genetic variations associated with breast cancer, but researchers have discovered multiple genetic variations in more than 13 genes. This means that you may receive a negative result from an at-home test kit for breast cancer, but you may still have a genetic variation that was not included in the test.
Additionally, if your results from an at-home test show that you have an increased risk of developing cancer, consider making an appointment to speak with your physician or a genetic counselor. A healthcare professional can recommend in-depth cancer DNA testing that provides comprehensive results.
Comprehensive results help your physician assess the risk that you may develop certain types of cancer, like prostate cancer, more accurately.
DNA Tests for Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition characterized by a slow decline in memory and cognitive function, including language difficulties and impaired reasoning and/or judgment.
These symptoms are collectively referred to as dementia. Dementia can be the result of a variety of conditions, but Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause.
If you have a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s disease, you are more likely to develop the condition. However, a large proportion of individuals affected by Alzheimer’s do not have any family history of the disease.
Scientists have discovered specific genetic variations associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. These genetic markers fall into two categories: risk and deterministic.
A risk gene, when inherited, increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s but does not guarantee it. A deterministic gene, when inherited, guarantees that the individual will develop the condition.
The genes associated with Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Apolipoprotein E-e4 (APOE4) – Risk factor gene
- Presenilin-2 (PS-2) – Deterministic gene
- Presenilin-1 (PS-1) – Deterministic gene
- Amyloid precursor protein (APP) – Deterministic gene
DNA Tests for Other Age-Related Diseases
The risk of developing age-related disease, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, has been linked to certain genes.
Other age-related diseases include diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease.
Certain genetic variants can affect specific proteins that are produced in the body. Proteins are responsible for innumerable processes vital to the body’s well-being. For example, proteins that are hormones facilitate processes between cells through signalling.
Meanwhile, proteins that are antibodies protect the body from harmful substances, like viruses.
Proteins are produced using the instructions in our genes. Variations in genes can result in different instructions for protein production.
For example, one genetic variation can lead to decreased levels of a certain protein, while a different variation of the same gene can lead to increased levels of the protein.
Researchers have discovered a protein involved in the onset of various age-related conditions, called klotho protein. Lower than normal amounts of klotho protein have been linked to an increased risk for the development of age-related diseases, like cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes.
Although a human test involving klotho protein has not yet been developed, there are comprehensive laboratory genetic tests that identify genetic variants associated with age-related disease. These tests can be ordered by your physician or genetic counselor.
Using the Results of a DNA Test for Longevity
Although your genes influence your health, they don’t necessarily determine your fate.
The lifestyle choices you make every day have a significant impact on your health and well being. And as humans, we’re constantly searching for ways to live longer.
For this reason, numerous individuals are using DNA testing results to make positive changes to their health and hopefully live longer lives. This is possible because some DNA tests focus on providing specific information about how your body responds to certain stimulants.
For example, certain tests can offer insight into your nutritional deficiency tendencies, why you may not be seeing results from your workout plan, and even which prescription medication will work best for you, referred to as pharmacogenomics.
Pharmacogenomics is the study of how your genes affect the way in which your body responds to medications. This is an important recent development in the medical field because it is a step in the direction of being able to provide personalized medicine.
For example, many people who are diagnosed with a mental disorder, like depression, enter into a long process of trying multiple medications and dosages in order to find the one that works best. Unfortunately, some medications may cause adverse side effects, such as worsening of symptoms, which can make this process very difficult.
Pharmacogenomics testing provides important insight into how your body metabolizes specific drugs, including potential negative side effects. The results from a pharmacogenomics test give you and your doctor the information necessary to choose the best medication and dosage for you, without the need for experimentation.
Results from a DNA test can inspire individuals to take positive actions that will improve their overall health and perhaps delay or even prevent the onset of age-related disease. Additionally, DNA results can be a vital part of treating chronic conditions like mental disorders by making use of pharmacogenomics insights.
Consider speaking with a medical professional or a genetic counselor to discuss the results of your DNA test. Doing so will reduce the risk of misinterpreting results and will help you make informed decisions about your health.
Anti-Aging Treatments and Supplements
Research suggests that anti-aging treatments and supplements may be able to slow down or even reverse biological signs of aging through our understanding of telomere length.
Scientists have linked healthy telomeres to specific vitamins, fatty acids, and antioxidants, such as Vitamins A, C, D and E, omega 3 fatty acids, and folic acid.
Furthermore, supplements may be a useful addition to your diet if you are prone to certain deficiencies. For example, DNA test results may indicate that you have a tendency to be low in certain vitamins, such as Vitamin A, a vitamin essential to vision and immune response.
Knowing this, you can make an appointment with a dietician to learn how to best increase your intake of Vitamin A — either through diet or with appropriate supplements.
Joint Health and DNA Test Results
Arthritis is a group of more than 100 conditions that cause inflammation of the joints. Joints are formed where two or more bones meet.
However, other structures, including cartilage, ligaments, and tendons, are essential to helping the stabilize joints and provide mobility. Inflammation resulting from arthritis can be extremely painful and significantly affect quality of life.
Some individuals are more prone to damaging the structures that make up the joints as a result of exercise that puts too much stress on the joints. Damage to these structures due to overstress or injury can increase your risk for developing certain types of arthritis, like osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis develops when the cartilage in the joint breaks down, decreasing the amount of cushioning between the bones. In severe cases, the bones will touch and rub against each other.
Knowing your risk of joint-related conditions allows you to work with a trainer or with your doctor to find exercises that are “joint friendly” or low impact.
It’s also possible to inherit a genetic mutation that increases your risk of developing certain types of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system attacks one of the membrane layers that lines the joints, called the synovium.
In addition to genes, smoking is a major lifestyle risk factor for the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Knowing whether or not you have inherited a genetic mutation that increases your risk of certain types of arthritis allows you to make informed lifestyle habits to significantly decrease your risk of developing the condition by avoiding smoking.
Find a Genetic Test Near Me
To find a DNA testing location near to you, talk to your doctor about reputable laboratories in your area.
If you’re hoping to conduct DNA testing under your insurance, talk to your insurance company to learn which laboratories are covered under your plan.
Healthcare professionals recommend making an appointment to speak with a genetic counselor both before completing a DNA test and after receiving results. With at-home testing kits, there is an increased chance that results could be misunderstood.
A genetic counselor will help you understand the benefits and limitations of each test so you can make an informed decision about which DNA test is best for you and what your results mean. If the results of your DNA test suggest a high risk of a certain age-related condition and you’re interested in learning about additional testing, your genetic counselor will also guide you through this process.
If you’re not sure where to find a genetic counselor, talk to your doctor to see if he/she can recommend one. The National Society of Genetic Counselors also provides a directory of genetic counselors that allows you to locate a genetic counselor in your area.