Are Your Genes Your Destiny?
We have a mantra around here: Genetics loads the gun, but environment pulls the trigger.
How often have you thought, “Well, my father/mother had diabetes/heart disease/Hashimoto’s, so I guess I will too?” Many of us assume that our genes will determine what diseases we may develop or how long we may live. We also assume we have very little control over the outcome.
Research conducted on twins has found that genetics has only a 20-30% influence on the development of disease. The other 75% can be attributed to the lifestyle choices that are made over the course of a lifetime.
So you think you’re doomed to develop the same heart disease or Alzheimer’s that your parents or grandparents developed? Think again. You have the power to turn on or turn off your genetic predispositions. What’s more, you will not only improve your own health, but that of your children and grandchildren!
Here are some of the lifestyle factors that influence how your genes are expressed:
- the food you eat
- the way you handle stress
- the environmental toxins that you’re exposed to
- the supplements you take (or don’t take)
- how often you move your body
- what your beliefs are
- your social network
- how much quality sleep you get
As you can see, all of these factors are within your sphere of influence. In other words, you have some control over whether your trigger gets pulled.
The healthier your lifestyle choices, the healthier your genes. If you smoke, those cancer-fighting genes will have a hard time working to keep you healthy. But if you eat a healthful diet, exercise regularly – in a way that’s restorative and rejuvenating vs. taxing, find ways to manage stress, and get adequate sleep, those same cancer-fighting genes will be bathed in a health-supporting environment that could add as much as 10 years of healthful, vibrant years to your life.
Is it easy to stay vigilant? Not always. It can mean making conscious choices even when you don’t feel like it. Do I always feel like going to the gym? No. Would I love to have that pastry that looks so inviting in the refrigerator case at the coffee shop? Sure. But I always ask myself how I would feel afterwards. Better or worse? Definitely better after a workout and definitely worse after eating that sugar bomb. And, honestly, I’m still working on trying to do some kind of meditation every day. Believe me, I fall down on that one a lot! But I’m trying.
And that’s the point. Just try. Surprisingly, it does get easier. Those healthful dietary and lifestyle choices do eventually become second nature. The better you feel, the less willing you become to sabotage your efforts. And if you “fall off the wagon,” get back on it the next day. As the saying goes, “Progress, not perfection.”
Knowing you hold so much power over your genetic on/off switch, why wouldn’t you choose health? Your genes will thank you.
Lipman, F. (2011) FAQ’s on Epigentics. Retrieved from: www.drfranklipman.com