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.
But you’re not Willie Sanchez. For him, training to compete in the New York City Triathlon sounded like the perfect recipe for good health.
“I needed a challenge,” he said.
The training worked too. Willie lost weight, toning his 6’ 2” frame, and he got pretty fit.
“Then I got sick,” he said.
It happened in dramatic fashion. Willie was riding on a bus reading when something came over him. He turned to the guy next to him and said: “I think I’m going to faint.”
Willie thought he was having a heart attack.
He woke up sprawled across the seat next to him.
“Fast-forward through a hospital stay, dozens of tests, and then, no answers,” said Willie.
One doctor had suggested he might have had a panic attack. That just didn’t sound right to Willie.
“Enter 23andMe,” he said. “I decided to take a little more control over my health by analyzing my DNA to search for health risks. Also I love looking at data and what better data then my own.”
For Willie this had all gotten serious kind of quick. He used to joke that he had an “expiration date.”
His father, and several close male relatives, had died young and he thought he might suffer the same fate. But as Willie got closer to 40, the joke didn’t seem so funny anymore.
With kids of his own, Willie wanted to do everything he could to stay healthy. And he was doing that but the health scare threw him for a loop. Testing with 23andMe was an effort to take a little more control and learn something more about his health.
The way Willie tells it, it was lucky he did.
As he waited for his results from the test, he continued through a series of medical appointments. Still no answers, then something happened.
“True story,” Willie said. “I’m at my doctor’s office still trying to figure out what happened…she starts to list off a few illnesses she wants to test for based on some blood work.”
As the doctor is rattling through the list, Willie suddenly stops her.
“Bingo!” he said.
He pulled out his 23andMe results and at the top of the list was a risk for hemochromatosis, a genetic disease that can quietly lead to iron overload, which in turn can lead to damage to the liver, kidneys, heart or other organs.
His 23andMe results combined with the preliminary blood work, allowed doctors to focus their testing. Ultimately the doctors were able to determine that indeed he had iron overload — about twice the level that was healthy for him. Fortunately, the condition is treated easily if it’s caught early.
Willie said the results helped him take control of his health. He quickly got back on his training regime. Recently he completed his third NY City Triathlon.
“When it comes to your health it’s easy to put things off,” said Willie. “But all it takes really is making a few small changes now. Why wait?”
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.