Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for HALO Assessment
Welcome to the FAQ section for the HALO Assessment. Here, we address common questions and provide clarifications regarding the science and limitations behind HALO, as well as specific aspects of the assessment. We understand that you may have concerns or uncertainties, and we aim to provide you with the information you need to make the most of your HALO experience. Let's dive into some of the frequently asked questions:
- Science Behind HALO
The HALO predictive model covers the most statistically important factors that affect longevity and years of disability. The model puts a strong emphasis on family health history, including factors such as: Alzheimer’s/dementia, stroke, diabetes, heart disease, cancer (bladder cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, kidney cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, skin cancer and prostate cancer), and the overall longevity of parents and grandparents. Research suggests that about 25% of the variability in longevity is due to our family genetics, making family health history an important factor . However, lifestyle plays a large role too. Our analysis considers some of the most important lifestyle factors, including smoking, exercise, diet, alcohol consumption, and BMI, as well as demographic factors like age, gender, personal health history, and ethnicity. The strong association between these factors and life expectancy is well established and is supported by numerous scholarly papers [2-7].
- HALO Limitations
Like any longevity assessment, the HALO assessment has limitations. One such limitation is that the assessment is intended for individuals in the general population who are not currently struggling with a serious health condition, such as Alzheimer’s disease or cancer. We have attempted to take into account the individuals’ disease status with respect to diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, but even with these conditions, a doctors’ insights into an individual’s disease state will be more accurate than the average estimates we give here. Individuals currently dealing with any serious health condition should discuss their personalized prognosis with their physician or other healthcare professionals.
- What effect does Grandparent health history have on longevity?
While we do know that your grandparents’ health history has some effect on your longevity, the effect size is relatively small. Because second-degree relatives have a much smaller effect on disease risk, and because the effect size of this association is not well studied for many conditions, we have opted to focus on parents and other first-degree relatives.
- What do I do if I know my family’s history of illness wasn’t due to genetic factors?
If you have a condition in your family that is dependent on lifestyle factors (e.g., your father had lung cancer, but he also smoked two packs a day), you may still be at an increased risk for the condition, even if you don’t personally have the factor. For most conditions, it is a combination of genes and environment. Generally speaking, lifestyle-dependent conditions won’t affect your longevity projections as much lifestyle-independent conditions. One of the factors that determine the impact of a condition is the relative risk associated with an affected first-degree relative. Typically, if the heritability is low (meaning genetics play a relatively small role), the relative risk associated with an affected relative is also low (although sometimes relative risks will also reflect lifestyle factors passed down through the environment).
- What if I used to smoke but don’t anymore?
If you quit smoking within the last year you should still select ‘Yes’ to the HALO smoking question. After one year, your risk for coronary disease begins to decrease and after 15 years you have the same risk of heart disease as a non-smoker (though your risk for other cancers such as lung cancer is slightly higher than someone who has never smoked, but never higher than a current smoker).
- Does smokeless tobacco influence longevity?
Most modern, American smokeless tobacco products have some association to specific cancers, but is not a common risk factor, as smoking is, and the effect size is much smaller. From our evaluation of the literature, we’ve discovered that the link between smokeless tobacco and longevity is minimal and therefore not included in our HALO assessment.
- What is the impact on longevity if client smokes socially and/or cigars vs. cigarettes?
The research shows that smoking is smoking whether it is a cigarette or a cigar and the bigger impact is not how much you smoke, but whether you are a smoker or non-smoker. If the client smokes or not is an all-or-nothing question because of the delta in the change (according to established research including the Surgeon General, as soon as you quit smoking you start to reduce your risk significantly). There is a variance between how often and what type of smoking you're doing affects your risk, however, to keep the assessment clearly defined, we are looking at the biggest risk factor associated with smoking, which is, do you smoke currently or not. It's also important to note that lung cancer risk is determined by other lifestyle factors and smoking is a factor in more than just lung cancer. We're using data sets and information from several studies to inform our algorithm. If you'd like to review further you can find one of those studies here.
- There a times when I may average just over two drinks daily. Per HALO that makes me a “heavy drinker.” How does HALO account for this?
There is well-established research out there about the impact of alcohol on life expectancy and that is built into our algorithm. The HALO alcohol question and the answer choices follow that research and we categorize alcohol consumption options based on those findings. We have made one modification to the way we ask the question: initially the answer options were broken out based on the number of drinks: 7 drinks or less, 8-14 drinks, 15-25 drinks, 25 or more drinks. However, many of our advisor customers felt that showing those ranges were too forward for users in that format so instead we worked on the user experience and moved those options to the right side of the screen and matched those ranges to the button choices: None, Moderate, Heavy to create a more encouraging user experience while not shortchanging the integrity of the question.
The question is still evaluating the user based on the number of drinks it’s just taking a subtler approach to how we present the answers. The classification of none, moderate, or heavy is customized on the right side of the screen based on the test taker’s gender since the acceptable alcohol ranges are different for men vs women (for example: for men, moderate alcohol use is considered 2 drinks or less per day. For women, moderate alcohol use is considered 1 drink or less per day). Again, we've used several studies to inform our algorithm and if you'd like to learn more about why we've selected these breakdowns, you can review one of the studies here.
- What if I was adopted?
While the family health questions which are factored into your longevity and relative risk are most accurate when associated with your biological relatives, you should not necessarily discount questions not pertaining to family health history if you are adopted. Your environment and habits play a role in your health and much of these factors are also hereditary – whether you are adopted or not. If you do have information on your biological family, you should use that as your primary source but should skip the health questions if you do not have that information.
- I have a healthy BMI but the assessment says it’s not optimal for longevity, why?
The ideal BMI for individuals depends on their unique bone and muscle structure, where exactly they carry their weight (weight carried around the gut or middle – sometimes called the “apple-shaped” weight distribution — is less healthy than “pear-shaped” distribution), etc. However, the optimal BMI for health is not necessarily the same as that which is best for longevity. Being slightly overweight can improve longevity, however, it should still be noted that being overweight can cause a lower quality of life due to its accompanying health issues. Where this “obesity paradox” comes from is an active area of research. One theory – supported by one recent research study — suggests that those who are overweight are diagnosed earlier with certain conditions such heart disease, and earlier detection leads to earlier, life-saving treatment, which leads to a longer life. Other proposed causes include illness-induced weight loss and bias due to smoking status. Although the cause of the correlation is still being studied, the science overall suggests that there is indeed a correlation between slightly higher BMIs and longevity.
- What is Genetic Age?
- Genetic Age is the proprietary algorithm from which our HALO results are constructed. Your Genetic Age is based on the number of close relatives you have with these diseases:
- Heart disease
- Bladder cancer
- Colon cancer
- Breast cancer (females)
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Ovarian cancer (females)
- Pancreatic cancer
- Prostate cancer (males)
- Skin melanoma
We also factor:
- How often the disease occurs in the general population.
- Your increase in risk from having a close relative affected with the disease
- What happens to the data that I share while taking the HALO Assessment?
We take you and your client’s privacy and security seriously. We follow several protocols to ensure that data is kept private at all times and that the only personal information shared is at the approval of the client. Lumiant does not sell or share any data with outside third parties. The HALO Analysis Report is sent directly to the advisor and is private between the advisor and client. Our database uses secure encryption and is fully anonymized. The information is stored according to industry best practices to protect your client’s data.
● The only personal identifying information (PII) we request is a name and email address so the advisor knows whose report they receive. That data is stored in a separate database from the assessment database for further protection. Your clients, however, can choose to use a nickname, initials, or whatever they feel comfortable sharing – as long as they let the advisor know who’s submitting the assessment.
13. How does the answer to “Who do you turn to for Emotional Support?” affect longevity?
The question in HALO is based upon research around social support and its impact on longevity: Social support can be instrumental or emotional. Instrumental Support includes financial aid, information, help with family or work, advice, food, or transportation. Emotional Support includes affection, sympathy, trust, encouragement, or guidance. Here is a link to some of the research: The Influence of Source of Social Support and Size of Social Network on All-Cause Mortality
From a layperson’s perspective, this article below has a good overview about why emotional/ social support is important and has an impact on longevity: The surgeon general says loneliness is as deadly as smoking
From a HALO algorithm perspective, it’s quite a complicated calculation that varies based on the person’s gender as well as who they are (or are not) turning to for support. While we have the ability to review a person’s HALO report and help with more specifics for many of the questions, unfortunately, the emotional support question is not one of them. Without knowing how the client answered that question we would be unable to share how it weighted into the results. Though a couple of suggestion that might help are: 1) run another HALO assessment and play with different selections for the emotional support question. Compare the different reports and this could be a way to pull out more specifics during the comparison 2) Contact email@example.com to discuss the specifics.