Medical questionnaires always ask about family history because certain illnesses run in families. While many factors contribute to clusters of disease development, a genetic component may also be at play. The strength of that connection depends upon many variables, from the type of disease and the gene involved to much broader considerations such as lifestyle, environment and even the experience of previous generations.
We now know that most chronic diseases are not as driven by genes as we once thought — one study concluded that overall risk of genes determining whether you develop a specific disease is less than five percent. However, your genetic variations do set the stage for epigenetic expression. How your genes react to their environment is influenced by factors like diet, physical activity and exposure to toxins. This process is known as gene expression and we now know you can modify these pathways in ways that affect your likelihood of developing chronic disease. Understanding how these processes work helps to put you in the driver’s seat when managing your health.
Aging is a complex process. Why do some people age well and others seem to grow old before their time? When experts take a close look at what distinguishes successful aging, the word resilience often crops up. Numerous studies link resiliency with physical health and increased longevity, an intriguing aspect of mind-body integration that has steered scientists toward the epigenome.
Many different elements contribute to how successfully we weather the advancing years, including things that took place while we were still in the womb. Aging, in essence, results from the accumulated effects of countless tiny changes, many of them epigenetic, that occur over the years. The good news is that science is now showing us that positive lifestyle modifications can slow down this process.
To learn more, click on any of the links below
Genes Your Health and Aging Well
- Food Security and Health Through the Generations
- Judith Finlayson on “All of It with Alison Stewart”
- Genes and Genes Expression
- How the risks for chronic diseases can be traced to the moment you were born:
- Think health is all about individual responsibility? The science says otherwise