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The Future of Medicine is Here 

Using Genomics to Optimize Health and Prevent Illness 

By Clementina Verge

Being able to peer into the future and minimize negative outcomes is not just wishful thinking, but a reality made possible by genomics, which provides insight into a person’s unique DNA makeup, assisting clinicians in developing individualized care plans. 

Genomics is a field of medicine that studies DNA variations, explains Dr. Alicia McKelvey, medical director of Medicine for Living in Woodbury, who uses genomic testing to help patients take charge of their bodies and offers a holistic, precise approach to achieving optimal health. 

Genetic variations can be likened to a one-word switch in a recipe.

“Boiling versus baking chicken may not create a significant difference, but boiling an apple pie rather than baking one, will,” Dr. McKelvey observes. “Likewise, DNA tells our individual story, as well as that of our parents and grandparents. Being able to ‘read’ this story allows a deep understanding of our health history.”

After earning a medical degree, completing a general surgery residency, and pursuing a fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery, Dr. McKelvey became a pioneer in minimally-invasive thoracic surgery. Decades of service allowed her to witness limitations of traditional medicine, and, determined to bridge this gap, she returned to school, becoming board-certified in Integrative Medicine.

“Western medicine looks at illness from a symptom standpoint, the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg,’ rather than seeking root causes,” she reflects. “Integrative medicine is a whole approach, considering the mind, body, and spirit, and how each is interdependent on maintaining health. Genomics allows the creation of a personalized owner’s manual to health, rather than a cookie-cutter approach.” 

While not a diagnostic tool, genomics reveals what contributes to and predisposes to issues. For example, people react differently to the same medication, and genomes are responsible. Furthermore, by the time many diseases, such as dementia, exhibit recognizable symptoms–identified in Western medicine as “early stages”–they have been 20 years or more in the making, notes Dr. McKelvey. 

This is where genomics proves advantageous: research suggests that genes not only hold clues about risks of developing memory disorders, but provide insight for prevention and treatment.

Such benefits extend to many conditions Dr. McKelvey addresses in her practice, including heart and brain health, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

Success stories include: a 52-year-old who experienced fatigue and a change in eyesight; a 44-year-old asthma sufferer who developed psoriasis and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis; and a 65-year-old who required multiple cardiac procedures for blocked coronary vessels and experienced memory issues.

In each instance, genomics found variants impacting the body’s ability to eliminate pesticides and heavy metals, contributing to gluten sensitivity and inflammation, or impacting blood vessels in both heart and brain. Dietary changes and supplements helped each person improve.

Because lifestyle, nutrition, environment, and other epigenetic factors influence genes, knowing one’s DNA is empowering. With a simple saliva test, individuals can take a proactive approach in optimizing health. Results do not mean that someone will develop an illness. Their value, however, lies in allowing patients to use DNA technology to prevent, heal, and reverse diseases. –

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