Overcoming Your Genetics

by Dr. Ben Lerner
People have been taught to fear their genes – to the point of removing body parts based on certain genotypes. Yet lifestyle and environment play a far greater role, in terms of a percentage, of influence than your great-grandparents ever will.
Overall, this is a more accurate statement: because you likely perceive the world, handle relationships, and live a lifestyle similarly to that of your parents, you express similar genes. As a result, there is an obvious tendency to develop similar physical conditions. Nevertheless, you play a part in determining your future. It is time to start living in a better way, living the life you want and not the one you believe you inherited!
We have the ability to control which genes will be expressed and which will not. The way you live influences the expression of your genes and allows you literally to model or remodel the functions of your body, and even the characteristics of your personality.
Two large-scale clinical studies by Northwestern University School of Medicine have confirmed that the most important facets of healthcare, such as the no. 1 killer, cardiovascular disease, have far more to do with lifestyle than genetics.
The first study evaluated five lifestyle factors: smoking, weight, exercise, diet, and alcohol consumption. More than 2,000 people were recruited for this study. The results showed that healthy lifestyle choices such as not smoking, exercising regularly, and not consuming alcohol excessively, dramatically lowered the risk of developing heart disease.
A really important aspect to understand is this: the more of these lifestyle essentials you addressed, the lower the chance of disease. The risk only decreased by 6 percent for participants who changed just one lifestyle factor, such as nutrition, but it decreased by 60 percent (10 times more) for those who made changes to all five lifestyle factors!
“Healthy behaviors can trump a lot of your genetics,” said Donald Lloyd-Jones, M.D., chair and professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, and staff cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “This research shows that people have control over their heart health. The earlier they start making healthy choices, the more likely they are to maintain a low-risk profile for heart disease.”
How does this happen? Genes load the gun and environment pulls the trigger. We cannot change who are grandparents were or do anything about our genes. Thus, it makes absolutely no sense to worry about something you can do nothing about. The problem is, for many of us, if we do not change the direction of our lifestyle, we actually might end up where we are headed and that is medication, surgery, or an early death. Your lifestyle does not get better by chance, it gets better by change and you have the power to change it.
You may be defined, but you’re not confined by your genetics—you have the final say in who, what, and how healthy you are!
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