Direct-to-consumer DNA testing; HBP meds and suicide risk



King Features Syndicate

Q: My grandmother developed Parkinson’s disease after she turned 70, so I was going to go online and get one of those DNA testing kits to see if I was at a heightened risk of getting it too. What do you docs think? — Thaleesa B., Denver

A: Well, there’s genetic testing and there’s genetic testing. If you are going to have it done, hire professionals. That means going to a certified health care provider such as a licensed physician, a nurse practitioner or a genetic counselor. They’ll tell you which test to take and send your DNA sample to a lab where a full genetic profile can be generated. Some labs only look for a few of the many mutations that may signal a predisposition to a disease. Then when the results come back, they will go over them with you. Your health insurance may cover this.

If you use a direct-to-consumer DNA testing service, you also run the risk of getting back a false positive (you don’t really have the gene, but they say you do), or a false negative (they tell you that you don’t have the gene when in fact you do), according to researchers from University of Southampton in the U.K. Plus, you’ll have your DNA out there in marketing land, where your information isn’t secure, no matter what they say. Most of the time, even a DTC paternity test isn’t admissible in a court of law.

Just by taking a quick look at one of the more popular DTC sites we found this in small print on the last page of its website: “The test is not intended to tell you anything about your current state of health, or to be used to make medical decisions.”

So go with the pros. They will also be able to tell you if there’s something that looks amiss in the results and what to do with your new knowledge to protect your health.

Q: Is it true that some high blood pressure medications can cause suicidal tendencies? I was just prescribed an ACE inhibitor and I am worried. — Myrna H., Detroit

A: Canadian researchers recently looked at two classes of common high blood pressure meds — angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) — and asked that same question. They reviewed over 18 years of data and found that people 66 and older who took ARBs were at a higher risk of suicide than those taking ACE inhibitors. Because Canada has nationalized medicine, they have a huge national database of medical records that include medication information. In this study they focused on Canada’s largest province, Ontario.

Both ARBs and ACE inhibitors are used to treat high blood pressure, as well as kidney disease, heart failure and even diabetes, by modulating a complex neuroendocrine system. They have been safe and effective for many people, although experts do make a case for ARBs over ACE inhibitors for many heart patients. But, keep this in mind: That doesn’t mean everyone responds well to them. Mental health side effects should not be dismissed.

If you are taking ARBs and you notice you are having mood swings or feel anxious or depressed (depression can also be a symptom of heart disease) tell your doctor pronto. This advice really applies to any medicine for any condition, including ACE inhibitors. That is especially important if you have a history of anxiety disorders, substance abuse, sleep disorders or any other mental health problems and have taken any antidepressants or psychotropic drugs. Pay attention to how you’re feeling; listen to what your body and emotions are telling you; and maybe keep a medication diary to share with your doctor. If one antihypertension medication doesn’t work for you, there’s a wide variety of drug options and lifestyle adjustments that can be used to treat high blood pressure. You can find something that works for you without negative side effects.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily(at sign)

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.