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Article Type: Blog

Your Genes Hold the Answers to Your Whole Health

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Nearly every cell in your body contains a complete copy of your unique and complex genetic code. And these genes hold the answers to many questions about your health — including understanding your risk of serious diseases, such as cancer or heart disease.

Researchers at AdventHealth Orlando are partnering with Helix, a personal genomics company, to launch WholeMe, a first-of-its-kind study in Florida. Our team will be looking at the genomes of 10,000 individuals to help them better understand their risk for familial hypercholesterolemia, as well as gain other insights about their ancestry, health and preferences.

What Is Familial Hypercholesterolemia?

Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a genetic condition that’s passed down through families. It’s caused by a defect on chromosome 19.

FH keeps your body from getting rid of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol from the blood. LDL is considered “bad” cholesterol. When elevated, it can increase your risk of sudden heart attack and other heart diseases. FH begins at birth, which means high levels of bad cholesterol begin to accumulate early in life, leading to a higher risk of heart attack — even at a young age.

Joining the WholeMe Study

Participants in WholeMe can uncover if they have the genetic defect linked to FH. You can also find out about gene traits that impact daily life, like your sleep patterns, how caffeine affects your body, and your risk of becoming lactose intolerant.

WholeMe is open to Florida residents over the age of 18 for free and will accept 10,000 participants. Enrollment sites are based in the Orlando area, and there’s no cost to participate. Beginning on July 24, participants will be able to choose a date and time to reserve an appointment at one of the available locations. Visit our website to learn more.

What If I Find Out I Have FH?

The first step toward whole health is gaining a clear picture of your risk factors and genetic traits. A genomic study, like WholeMe, can help provide that important insight so you and your doctor can make the best possible choices.

And, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of heart disease and heart attack, even if you have FH. These include lifestyle changes and medications. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Cutting saturated fat from your diet
  • Eating a plant-based diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and plant-based protein, such as beans, lentils and seafood
  • Exercising at least 30 minutes, five days a week
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

Sometimes, lifestyle changes are enough to help lower LDL levels in the blood. If you still have elevated cholesterol levels after making healthy changes, your doctor may also prescribe medications, such as a statin drug.

Take the First Step to Better Health

If you’re concerned about your risk for FH or want to have a better understanding of what your genes say about your health, sign up for WholeMe. Registration opens on July 24. Learn more about this breakthrough research project available through AdventHealth Orlando and Helix.

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