Your Genes are NOT Your Medical Destiny
Stop using your parents as an excuse for what’s wrong with you.
The new science of epigenetics has overthrown the tyranny of genetics.
Your lifestyle matters to your health and lifespan far more than most people want to believe.
Think back to when you first heard about DNA and genetics. Chances are, it went something like this:
Your genes determine the color of your eyes and how tall you grow.
Most of that is actually still the same because eye color and height don’t change.
But we have around 20-21,000 genes.
Despite What We’ve Been Told, NONE of Them are “Blueprints” for Our Bodies
The code for proteins. And our proteins put our bodies together using methyl groups and histones.
For decades after Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA, medical science claimed our genes determined everything about our lives. Not only our eye color and height but our behavior. They blamed genes for low intelligence and criminal behavior.
Some scientists claimed we didn’t even have free will. What we thought and believed depended on our genes. DNA was the king of life.
However, the True Story is More Complicated, Interesting and Hopeful
Many genes, it turns out, can be turned on or off — more officially, “expressed” or not.
We all have a unique mixture of genes, depending on ancestry going back gazillions of years. And we have a mix of good and bad genes.
When our lifestyles trigger the expression of health-promoting genes, we live longer.
Express your bad genes instead, and you’re asking for trouble.
We don’t choose the exact mix, it’s true. Apparently some people do still have an overall advantage. But we can choose to live healthy or unhealthy lifestyles.
It’s Sort of Like the Economic Circumstances You’re Born Into
Many people born into poverty stay poor, while others refuse to accept that, and become highly successful.
Many people born into affluence take advantage of that to go to college and have a great career. Others are spoiled “rich kids” who wind up homeless on the street.
Your lifestyle affects your methyl groups and histones. In turn, they tell your genes how much to turn on – or whether to turn on or off at all.
Therefore, your genome is just your hardware. It doesn’t change.
The methyl groups and histones are like the software controlling your genes. They do change over time. They change based on your diet, exercise, whether you smoke or not, how much you’re stressed out and much more.
The Epigenetic Marks are Reversible
One type of gene we have is for suppressing tumors – that is, cancer.
Obviously, the expression of those genes is good for us. They protect you from developing cancer.
No surprise – Big Pharma is developing drugs to reverse these epigenetic markers. That’s certainly a welcome alternative to traditional radiation and chemotherapy.
But wouldn’t it be even better to reverse the epigenetic marks yourself? So you don’t develop the cancer in the first place? That’s a lot less stressful.
And it’s no big secret. As scientists research epigenetics, they discover good health habits result in the expression of healthful, protective genes.
Bad health habits turn on your bad genes.
If This Sounds Obvious, Remember Angelina Jolie
She underwent a double mastectomy because she has defects in her BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. They code for proteins that protect DNA. Therefore, her risk for breast and ovarian cancer was high.
But not every woman with those BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes develops breast or ovarian cancer. And many women develop breast or ovarian cancer even though they have no genetic defect in those genes.
If Angelina Jolie had thoroughly understood the emerging science of epigenetics and how much she could reduce her risk of cancer by her lifestyle, would she still have chosen to remove both her breasts?
I don’t know, but such drastic surgery comes with its own big medical risks.
And, let’s face it, most cancers develop in parts of the body that can’t be surgically removed as a preventative treatment.
We’re No Longer Victims of Our DNA
Before the discovery of epigenetics, people seemingly were justified in believing they could not escape whatever destiny they inherited.
Now medical science knows that’s not true, but the news hasn’t gotten out yet.
That’s the message of this article. Your medical destiny is NOT fixed.
It’s like a game of cards. Everybody is dealt a different hand, some better and some worse than others.
But the winner is the person who does the best job at discarding bad cards and getting new ones.
Even if your father died of a heart attack at the age of 50 and your mother of breast cancer at the age of 48 – you can live to be 100.
But probably not if you smoke, never exercise, eat junk food and stay up half the night drinking beer.