In the tapestry of human health, our genes are often viewed as the master weavers, shaping our predispositions and influencing our destiny.
The concept that the genetic makeup holds the key to your health has been a prevailing story, and indeed, genes play a crucial role in shaping various aspects of your well-being. However, it’s essential to recognize that your health story is not solely dictated by your genes—there’s an amazing interplay between nature and nurture that deserves your attention.
Genes, the strands of your DNA, serve as the instruction manual for building and maintaining your body. They determine traits like eye colour, height, and susceptibility to certain conditions such as diabetes, MS etc. But the story does not stop there.
The intricate dance of your genes with lifestyle, environment, and personal choices adds layers of complexity to your health.
How Do Genetics Work?
Imagine your genes as a blueprint, outlining the potential structure of a house. The blueprint provides the framework, but the outcome depends on the materials used, the craftsmanship, and the environmental conditions.
Similarly, while genes lay the foundation for your health – your lifestyle choices, environmental factors, and overall well-being contribute significantly to the final structure.
Research has shown that only a fraction of diseases and health outcomes can be attributed solely to genetics. Many common conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer are influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Genes: Only One Part of Your Health Story
It’s the intricate dance between your genes and your choices that determines the quality of our health. If fact, 25 % of the variation in human longevity can be due to genetic factors and this is even higher in older adults. That is wonderful news as it demonstrates how much agency we have over our health outcomes.
Consider identical twins who share nearly identical genetic material. While they may have a higher likelihood of developing certain conditions due to their shared genes, their life paths, habits, and environments will lead to different health outcomes. This divergence highlights the profound impact that lifestyle choices and environmental factors can have on our health.
Epigenetics and You
In the realm of genetics, the concept of “genetic expression” or “epigenetic”, plays a pivotal role. Genetic expression refers to the process by which information encoded in genes is translated into the body. Lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, stress management, and sleep, all influence this genetic expression.
This means that your everyday choices have the power to modulate how your genes manifest in your overall health.
For instance, a genetic predisposition to a certain condition such as high blood pressure does not mean that you will necessarily develop it. Lifestyle modifications, like adopting a heart-healthy diet or incorporating regular physical activity, can positively influence the expression of your genes related to cardiovascular health. This emphasizes the empowering notion that your choices can act as a counterbalance to genetic factors.
It’s crucial to understand that genetics are just one chapter in the story of your health. Embracing a holistic approach that considers lifestyle, environmental factors, and personal choices empowers you to take an active role in your well-being.
Healthy habits, such as maintaining a balanced diet, staying physically active, managing stress, and getting regular check-ups, contribute significantly to a resilient and thriving life. So, while your genes provide a unique script to your health journey, they do not dictate the entire plot. Knowing that your health is a nuanced relationship between genes and lifestyle decisions, you can be fundamentally empowered to make decisions that will help carry you down a path of wellness.
Annie Gaudreault is the founder of VEEV Health & Wellness. As a holistic nutritionist, endurance athlete and women’s health coach, she supports the wellness needs of women living busy lives. Annie is a regular contributor to The Health Insider and is a sought-out women’s health and nutrition expert.