Your Genes Are Not Your Health Destiny!

Insight into my DNA has been made possible by personal genomics. Now, I am able to know whether I have cancer-causing or other alterations in my genes. However, you might be someone who adamantly refuses to learn about your genes and whether you are at risk for certain diseases. Avoiding information that threatens happiness or health is not abnormal and is sometimes referred to as information avoidance.

Perhaps no health problem causes as much anxiety as the threat of a heart attack or cancer. Knowing you are likely to have a heart attack or a cancer gene may cause feelings of panic and regret. This is perhaps partly due to the perceived finality of these diseases or how the media reports about cancer and its victims.

But in reality, you should have more anxiety if you don’t take the time to learn about your genes and what diseases you may be prone to. Why? Because in many instances, this knowledge may allow you to make lifestyle changes that could better control the activity of these defective genes. You may not be able to change your DNA, but you may be able to help control the activity of your genes.

Environmental influences like nutrition, cigarette smoke as well as our hormones have strong influences and affect how active our genes are and how they behave. The activity of ‘normal’ genes may be regulated to express themselves in an abnormal way through tobacco smoke, pesticides and other agents and even nutrition. If you are exposed to tobacco smoke, it may drive a process which changes your gene functions, and those changes could be passed down from generation to generation. This may help explain why, for example, diabetes is hereditary in some families.

Similarly, these so-called ‘defective genes’ may be regulated to express themselves in a normal way. So a gene is still a gene, and our environment determines how the genes behave. Chemical modifications may switch genes on or off with no change in the DNA sequence.

Take heart attacks as an example. As mentioned, genetics testing can reveal if you have a defective gene associated with a high risk for a heart attack (the representative gene is MTAP). With this information, you can be proactive and reduce your risk by various activities such as the following:

  • Eating a healthy diet consisting primarily of fresh foods that do not contain preservatives or flavor enhancers.
  • Eating foods with omega 3 and other essential fatty acids.
  • Avoiding smoking (including e-cigarettes) and consuming minimal alcohol.
  • Engaging in appropriate exercise. Follow the recommendations outlined in peer-reviewed studies. Treat such studies as facts and not promotional information designed to sell any particular activity. Since the human body is comprised entirely of cells, their health and well-being is crucial. We are constantly gaining knowledge about the levels of exercise cells need to remain healthy.
  • Reducing stress through yoga, mindfulness or another form of cognitive behavioral therapy.