Editor’s note: Pending an FDA decision, 23andMe no longer offers new customers access to health reports referred to in this post. Customers who purchased prior to November 22, 2013 will still be able to see their health reports, but those who purchased after that time will not. Those customers will have access to ancestry information as well as access to their uninterpreted raw data.
Even at 73, nothing much slows down Richard Cummings.
For almost fifty years he’s run his own company, moving into sheet metal work and erecting steel structures for buildings over the last two decades. More recently he added another business “as a sideline,” as he says, raising cattle.
With all that going on, Richard says he has to stay healthy. A few years ago, when he learned he had high cholesterol and type II diabetes, Richard and his doctors got those conditions under control with drugs. But over the last few years, Richard noticed he was experiencing muscle problems. His doctor didn’t seem too worried, so at first Richard didn’t push it.
But all that changed when Richard took the 23andMe test last summer. His results at once surprised him and made sense. According to his 23andMe report he was at risk for developing muscle myopathy due to the use of statins. Statins are drugs commonly prescribed to control cholesterol. Since he’d been taking statins for some time, he immediately thought, “Ooh, maybe that’s something I ought to look into.”
He went to his doctor again, and this time he pushed. Ultimately he found a doctor who would listen to what was going on with his body. His muscle problems weren’t going away and his 23andMe results suggested that his statin treatment might be involved.
“What 23andMe did for me was it gave me the confidence to pursue further what my issue might be. To prod a little more and prod a little further,” he said. “I never would have gone down that road had I not had the test.”
About 15 million people in the United States with heightened risk for cardiovascular disease use statins to lower their cholesterol and their risks. Statins— prescribed under brand names such as Lipitor, Lescol, Crestor, Zocor and Pravachol — are generally very safe, but for some individuals it can cause side effects such as muscle pain, weakness and in very rare cases disintegration of the muscle or known as rhabdomyolysis. The US FDA has a helpful consumer report on controlling cholesterol with statins, including suggestions on how to handle side effects. The bottom line is not to simply stop taking medication without consulting your physician.
His persistence paid off. The second doctor suggested some alternatives to statins for his high cholesterol, allowing him to cut his prescription for statins by half. And then he discovered his blood levels of hemoglobin A1C, which reflect average blood sugar, were better than they had been in years. He talked to the doctor about reducing his prescription for the two drugs he took to combat his diabetes. He was able to successfully drop one entirely.
Since then, Richard felt his muscles getting stronger again.
“I feel better,” he said. “I’m really pleased.”
Now he’s looking ahead to the work he needs to do for his new cattle operation, in between running his steel business. Over the next year, he is planning to build a bridge (steel, of course) and barn, and have fencing installed.
As for retirement, it’s never even crossed his mind.
“The thing is, I have a lot of fun at work. I enjoy what I do,” he said. “So why retire?”
Results not typical. Results vary due to unique differences in each individual’s DNA. On average, users receive at least one or two results that may help with proactively managing health. 23andMe’s services are not a substitute for professional medical or diagnostic advice.