Stressed woman wearing surgical mask

Know Your Health: Is Anxiety Genetic?

By LunaDNA Contributing Writer 

Many people experience anxiety during their lifetime. However, anxiety is not normal if it takes over your life.

A genetic predisposition for anxiety can trigger an over-the-top response to a low-key event. There are many risk factors for anxiety disorders including genetics, personality, brain chemistry, and external influences.  

Learn more about anxiety, including:   

  • What is Anxiety?
  • Types of Anxiety Disorders
  • Symptoms of Anxiety
  • What Causes Anxiety?
  • Is Anxiety Genetic?
  • Is Anxiety Hereditary?
  • Anxiety Diagnosis

Generalized Anxiety Disorder 

Generalized anxiety disorder is a chronic condition characterized by incessant and excessive worrying. A person with this disorder expects the worst, even when there is no plausible reason to do so. Feeling anxious for no reason is a common sentiment for those with this condition.  

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, generalized anxiety disorder sometimes runs in families. It’s unknown why some family members have it while others do not. The specific cause is unknown, but it is suspected that it’s a combination of family history, biological factors, and stressful life experiences.  

Symptoms may include: 

  • worrying too much
  • feeling nervous
  • feeling restless
  • difficulty concentrating
  • being easily startled
  • having insomnia
  • feeling exhausted
  • feeling irritable
  • sweating
  • feeling light-headed
  • feeling out of breath
  • difficulty swallowing
  • trembling
  • having to go to the bathroom frequently
  • having headaches
  • having stomach aches

Treatment by a doctor may include therapy and/or medication. 

Panic Disorder & Panic Attacks 

Panic attacks are recurring sudden attacks of terror that often come with debilitating physical symptoms. The episodes can last minutes or hours. A trigger may bring on the attacks, but often they arise for seemingly no reason. Symptoms include accelerated heart rate, trembling or shaking, having trouble breathing, sweating, feeling out of control, or feeling doomed. Because panic attacks are traumatic, some people with this disorder constantly worry when the next attack will occur and avoid places or situations. This can lead to another anxiety disorder called agoraphobia, which is the fear and avoidance of certain places or situations that might make you feel helpless or embarrassed. 

If left untreated, panic attacks can turn into a panic disorder. This occurs when a panic attack is followed up with a month or more of intense and constant worrying about the next panic attack and the fallout from it. However, not everyone that has panic attacks has a panic disorder. Treatment by a doctor for both conditions may include therapy and/or medication. 

Social Anxiety Disorder 

People with social anxiety disorder fear being in social or performance situations in which they might be judged negatively or be embarrassed. While it’s normal to get stage fright, people with this disorder tend to avoid public situations and human contact.  

Symptoms include blushing, accelerated heartbeat, sweating, trembling, nausea, lightheadedness, trouble breathing, and muscle tension. A typical response to this anxiety disorder is to avoid social situations whenever possible. Treatment by a doctor may include therapy and/or medication. 

Symptoms of Anxiety 

Although there are various types of anxiety disorders, many signs and symptoms of the types are similar including:  

  • accelerated heart rate
  • hyperventilation
  • sweating
  • shaking
  • sense of doom or panic
  • nervousness
  • restlessness
  • tension
  • tiredness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • insomnia
  • gastrointestinal issues
  • inability to stop worrying
  • having trouble controlling urge to avoid trigger events

Is Anxiety Genetic? 

Several parts of the brain play a role in fear and anxiety, so its genetic connections are complex. Through continued research, collecting data, and by learning more about how the brain functions in particular anxiety disorders, researchers can help create better treatments.  

Anxiety can be triggered by certain external events, and people with certain predispositions may be wired to react anxiously. It is possible that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to an anxiety disorder.  

While the link between genetics and anxiety is still unclear, it has been shown that anxiety disorders run in families. Genetically-linked brain disorders are complex, and more research needs to be done to truly understand whether or not anxiety is hereditary. 

Anxiety Diagnosis  

Diagnosing anxiety can be complex, so it is important to see a doctor or psychiatrist to get properly evaluated. A doctor may start with a physical exam to see if there is an underlying condition causing the anxiety. Laboratory testing of blood and urine samples may also be needed to rule out other possible causes. The doctor will look at medical history and ask questions to determine the proper diagnosis. If you experience some or all of the symptoms of anxiety, consult your physician. 

Treatments for Anxiety 

Treatments for anxiety vary largely based on the type of anxiety, root cause, and each individual’s situation and symptoms. A doctor decides how to treat patients based on what they need to function better in daily life. Two primary avenues of treatment are most common: recommended therapy to relieve stress and the use of anti-anxiety medication. Depending on the severity of an individual’s anxiety, a physician may recommend both therapy and medication as the best treatment.  

The field of pharmacogenomics, the study of how gene’s affect drug response, is making great strides in identifying which medications and dosages work better based on a patient’s genetic makeup. However, more research is needed to understand exactly how genetics plays a role in anxiety disorders and brain chemistry. As research continues, meaningful scientific breakthroughs will lead to better prevention and treatment of anxiety disorders. 

If you’d like to help researchers better understand anxiety and other genetic disorders, take the LunaDNA mental wellness survey. The more people who come together to contribute health data for the greater good, the quicker and more efficient research will scale, and improve the quality of life for us all.  

Click here to get started.

Couple sleeping

Know Your Health: What Causes Snoring?

By LunaDNA Contributing Writer 

Snoring occurs when air can’t flow freely through the nose and throat.

As air fights to make its way through the airways, it jangles against the tissues in the nose and throat creating a snoring sound. Learn why people snore, and what can be done about it including:

  • Why Do People Snore?
  • What Causes Snoring?
  • Is Snoring Genetic?
  • Snoring and Sleep Apnea
  • Snoring Solutions and Treatment
  • Is Snoring Curable?
  • How to Stop Snoring

Why Do People Snore?  

People who snore often have too much tissue in their noses and throats. The snoring sound is due to tissue vibrating in the upper airway, typically during inhalation. Most people don’t know they snore until someone tells them. Signs of snoring are: waking up with a headache or dry mouth, waking up suddenly in the middle of the night (and not from a nightmare), feeling tired during the day (even if sleeping a full night), waking up coughing or wheezing, or experiencing dental issues. 

While snoring is not an illness, it can be a symptom of a serious condition called sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by labored breathing, snoring, and gasps while asleep. In sleep apnea, the neck muscles relax, and the pathway for air to get to the lungs shuts down. At that point, the brain will usually send a signal that it needs more oxygen, which wakes up the snorer.  

Often snorers, especially those with sleep apnea, are unaware they are waking up, but they feel exhausted the following morning.  

What Causes Snoring? 

About 40 percent of men and 24 percent of women are prone to chronic snoring. Possible physical reasons for snoring include being overweight, enlarged tonsils or tongue, enlarged adenoids, elongated soft palate or cleft palate, or the shape of a person’s nose or jaw. Other factors that may contribute to snoring are nasal congestion or allergies, alcohol consumption, smoking, sleeping position, and sleep deprivation.  

The following are risk factors for snoring:

  • being a man
  • being overweight
  • narrow or closed off airway
  • narrow throat
  • elongated soft palate
  • cleft palate
  • enlarged adenoids
  • deviated septum
  • nasal congestion or allergies
  • sleep position
  • sleep deprivation
  • alcohol consumption
  • smoking
  • having a family history of snoring or sleep apnea

Is Snoring Genetic? 

Chronic snoring isn’t necessarily genetic, but factors that contribute to snoring may have hereditary roots. Obesity, certain anatomical traits, and medical conditions like obstructive sleep apnea, can have a genetic component. These traits paired with non-genetic factors may increase a person’s risk of snoring.  

Parents that snore are three times more likely to have children that snore than parents that don’t snore. Even having a family member that chronically snores can be a contributing factor if it causes sleep deprivation (a risk factor in snoring). About 10 percent or more children snore on most nights. 

Snoring and Sleep Apnea — What Are the Signs of Sleep Apnea 

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious medical disorder that causes breathing to stop and start repeatedly throughout the night. If your parent has sleep apnea, you are at a higher risk of developing it. People with sleep apnea have an increased risk of developing insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, abnormal test results on liver function tests, and complications with medications and general anesthesia.  

Types of Sleep Apnea 

There are three main types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. This occurs when throat muscles relax to the point of hindering airflow, either by the tongue falling into the back of the throat or some other physical obstruction.
  • Central sleep apnea is the least common form of sleep apnea and occurs when the brain doesn’t send a signal to the muscles that control breathing.  
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome is the diagnosis for people with both types of sleep apnea (obstructive and central).  

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea 

Symptoms of sleep apnea (besides loud snoring) include: 

  • gasping for air during sleep
  • chest pains
  • feeling excessively drowsy throughout the day
  • irritability
  • chronic headaches or sore throat
  • dry mouth after waking in the morning
  • high blood pressure

Risk factors for sleep apnea include having a heart disorder; excess weight; nasal congestion; thicker neck circumference; a narrow throat; family history of sleep apnea; use of sedatives, pain medications, or alcohol that relax throat muscles; and smoking. Anyone that smokes is three times as likely to have sleep apnea than those who have never smoked. Smoking can increase inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.  

Snoring Solutions and Treatment 

Treatments for snoring run the gamut from non-invasive nasal breathing strips to invasive surgical procedures. Other non-invasive home remedies include sleeping on the side instead of the back, losing weight, avoiding alcohol and smoking, and treating allergies. Treatments for snoring that may require a prescription for insurance coverage are a mouth guard or a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine that prevents airway collapse. One of the most invasive remedies is surgery to remove the excess tissue in the airway. Success rates for surgery are good, but the procedure can be painful. Surgery is rarely used to treat snoring without sleep apnea. Your doctor can determine the best treatment option for you. 

Is Snoring Curable? 

Less snoring can be achieved with behavioral changes, treatments, and remedies. A diagnosis from a doctor or a specialist, such as an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) is the first step. A diagnosis holds the key to determining if snoring is the issue or if it is a symptom of another condition. 

How to Stop Snoring 

To stop snoring, you must find the right combination of strategies. Some simple remedies to try include:  

  • Avoid sleeping on the back; sleeping on the side keeps the tongue from obstructing airflow
  • Lose that weight, especially if you weren’t snoring before gaining weight
  • Don’t drink alcohol before bedtime; make sure last call is at least four hours before you go to bed
  • Get at least seven hours of sleep at night; not getting enough sleep makes muscles floppy and leads to snoring
  • Try raising the head of your bed by four inches; if this doesn’t work, try a wedge pillow next
  • Kick the pets out of bed; pet dander can irritate your nasal allergies
  • Change out the bed pillow regularly to keep dust mites (that can lead to snoring) at bay
  • Hydrate by drinking plenty of water that helps keep nasal passages moist and unclogged by keeping phlegm flowing and less sticky

If you’d like to help researchers better understand snoring, sleep apnea, and other conditions, take the LunaDNA sleeps surveys. The more people who come together to contribute health data for the greater good, the quicker and more efficient research will scale, and improve the quality of life for us all.  

Click here to get started.

Wrapped presents on a color background

Survey Finds 67% of Americans Would Rather Give a Gift To Benefit The Greater Good

A new survey from LunaDNA found that two in three Americans (67%) would rather give a gift to benefit the greater good than receive a material gift for the holidays. Of the majority of Americans who prefer altruistic gift-giving, older adults (65+) are more likely than younger adults to give a gift to benefit the greater good.

LunaDNA’s parent public benefit corporation, LunaPBC, commissioned The Harris Poll to conduct an online survey among over 2,000 adults to better understand sentiment toward people’s relationship towards giving. The results are weighted to be representative of the American adult population across various demographics, including age, gender, and ethnicity.

During the most ‘giving’ time of year, it’s reassuring to know that people are more interested in giving back to benefit others, and not just material gifts. These findings reinforce LunaDNA’s commitment to provide people with a year round opportunity to share their health data and reshape health discovery to improve well-being for all.”

Deb Thompson, VP of Strategy + Operations
Harris Poll Holiday Survey Infographic
Harris Poll Holiday Survey Infographic

The survey findings come days after LunaDNA’s one-year anniversary since receiving approval from the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to recognize health data as currency. Last year, LunaDNA made history becoming the world’s first platform to offer ownership shares to individuals in return for  genomic, personal, and health data. This initiative promotes people from study subjects to research partners by including all research participants in the value created from health discovery.

Since then, the LunaDNA platform has been breaking down data silos by crowdsourcing real-world and “missing data” in a manner unlike current models and aggregating that data in a controlled analytics environment to support research. This person-centric model is highly beneficial to pharma, academics, governments, and medical institutions aiming to accelerate medical breakthroughs.

Benefiting the greater good is LunaDNA’s core mission, not only to drive discovery, but to do so while honoring the individual health data contributor. The people-powered health data sharing platform improves participant engagement, efficiency, and velocity of research, and brings people together to share health data to benefit communities worldwide.

The key findings from LunaDNA’s survey enforces that the majority of Americans are more altruistic when it comes to gifting. Subsequently, LunaDNA is partnering with the San Diego Blood Bank to build the world’s largest local research community to support research, enable individuals to become active, valued participants in research, and ultimately enable people to gift a give that would truly benefit the greater good.

I believe the future of discovery and people’s data will be sideways not siloed, connected not dictated, socially responsible, and transparent.”

Dawn Barry, President + Co-Founder at LunaPBC

Learn more about this exciting new partnership here

Family Health History Thanksgiving talk

Family Health History Should Be Topic of Conversation This Thanksgiving

By Genevieve Lopez, Head of Digital Engagement at LunaPBC

As we prepare for the fast-approaching holiday that unites families together nationwide over food, drinks, and much-awaited family connection, take advantage of the valuable opportunities while surrounded by your closest relatives – loved-ones that could be helpful in predicting and providing you identifiers of your future health. Every family has their own unique traditions and understanding family health history should be something to add to the Thanksgiving itinerary.

Why Health History Is Important

There’s a reason why your primary care physician asks about your family history every year. It’s important. Your family members’ health — including that of your children, sisters, brothers, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews — can reveal a wealth of information that may directly impact you. A pattern with relatives’ health history can determine conditions that run in the family and furthermore, indicate increased risks you may have for developing a particular disease.

Although identifying these patterns do not predict your pre-disposition in developing the same condition, understanding your potential risks can prepare you to take the necessary steps to reduce its development later in life. For instance, if your grandmother passed away from breast cancer and your aunt is a breast cancer survivor, there’s a higher chance that you may have inherited BRCA-1 or BRCA-2, breast cancer genes. Additionally, family health history goes beyond hereditary genetic lineage. It also encompasses eating habits, daily activities, and environmental factors that impact health and well-being. Having this information equips you with important insight to share with your primary care physician, enables you to undergo appropriate tests and interventions, and empowers you to proactively take charge of your well-being. Especially in the case of health history, education is truly life-changing.

How to Initiate the Conversation 

So how does one become fully informed about their family health history? Initiate conversation, especially when the opportunity arises. The information you already have about your family’s health conditions may have been derived from events that dramatically impacted your life, like the passing of a grandparent or the diagnosis of a sibling.  But what about the underlying symptoms that aren’t typically discussed or identified, like a family member’s chronic pain or dramatic weight loss. Identifying patterns in symptoms like these across generations can help forecast greater health challenges that need immediate professional attention.

Family Health History Checklist 

In between turkey dinner and pumpkin pie dessert, mark-off the following checklist to ensure you’re learning as much as possible about your family health history and ultimately, yours.

Ask Questions

Considering how much your health impacts others, sharing your personal experiences and hearing others may save a life. Here are a few questions to consider asking your relatives:

  • How has your health and wellness been this year?
  • Are you experiencing any conditions or diseases you’re comfortable sharing?
  • Who in the family has also experienced similar symptoms, conditions, or diseases? 
  • What are your eating habits, activity habits, etc.?
  • What are some things you do on a regular basis to stay healthy? 

Record Information

It’s important to know your family health history and especially important to ensure you don’t forget it. Record what you learned during these conversations and store in a secure location. This can be anything from a simple word document to a detailed health family tree. The more details you can provide about your family health history, the better you can identify patterns regarding health symptoms, conditions, or diseases you may be affected by.

Share Information

During your next doctor’s visit, share the information you learned during the holidays and update your family health history paperwork or database. Based on the information you collected, you and your doctor can create a healthy plan for you to roll into the new year with health, wellness, and quality of life top of mind. 

Additionally, take a health survey on LunaDNA’s secure and private platform and earn ownership shares for sharing your family health history data to research. There’s nothing more rewarding than closing out the year sharing value to benefit the greater good of humanity and joining a health movement that powers medical breakthroughs.

To take a health survey to support research and earn shares, click here.