Lifestyle or genetics are the root causes for different problems depending on the person’s perception and his/her way of living. For instance, ask a couch potato if its lifestyle or genetics that dominates a person’s health and pat comes the reply-genetics. Meanwhile, a fitness freak or a disciplined guy who exercises daily relies solely on lifestyle and blames lifestyle practices for any of the problems that happen with respect to health/fitness.
So, is time and ageing kind on some while being cruel to others? A number of health issues are left at stake with one sentence that shuts a person’s mouth -“It runs in my family”. All that you do after hearing this sentence is laugh out to your heart’s content. Practically, except for 100% genetically inherited diseases such as Huntington’s or sickle cell anemia all other diseases only pose the risk of inheriting the gene that carries the increased risk for disease manifestation.
Of late, there has been a lot of debate on the genetic nature of the Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Just like the BRCA gene associated with breast cancer risk, the APOE gene has been garnering ample publicity for its association with AD. Individuals who inherit one copy of the e4 variant of the APOE allele are at an increased risk of the disease while those who inherit two copies of the allele are at an even greater risk. Its ideal to note that people with one or two copies of the allele are only at an increased risk of developing the disease and not at risk for AD itself. Not every person with AD is a carrier of the allele nor do all people who carry the allele are sure to develop AD in the future.
A Tragic Win
Genetics might seem scary but elicit a happy feeling simultaneously in some others. Its scary as there is the danger of a disease lurking around anytime in the future but joyous at the same time as it requires no efforts from the individual’s end in terms of health changes or decision-making roles.
Whenever you try to inculcate healthy behavior in an unhealthy person they come up with the right excuses and examples. One such is the example of a world-famous runner called Jim Fixx who popularized running as a sport and spread the advantages of jogging to everyone. Ironically for someone as fit and exercise-inclined as Jim, death struck him in the form of heart attack at the age of 52 while he was jogging. People who like to abstain from exercising quote Jim’s example to escape from health-promoting activities. In reality, Jim inherited a predisposition to heart problems and if he hadn’t exercised regularly, he could have died in his late 30s or early 40s too. By exercising and leading a healthy life he had prolonged his life tenure greatly.
The recent rush is on epigenetics. Environment’s effect on the genes can influence disease and some of these effects can be inherited in humans. Epigenetics is the genetic control by factors other than the individual’s DNA sequence. In short, what exists between the genes matter more than the genes itself. Markers for epigenetics remain dormant and get turned on or off depending on the everyday choices made by the individual and the way in which he/she leads life. There are many studies and insights that dwell on genetic link to diseases such as obesity, Alzheimer’s and cancer but it has also been proposed that genetics affect these diseases no more than 10-20% in any individual. For example, only 10% of people carry the gene for AD and only around 50% of those who carry the gene develop the disease. Rest of the AD cases are due to successive brain damage that occurs in the course of life.
Ultimately it all boils down to the everyday choices you make in life and your approach towards life. These choices and time will tell more about your body beyond genetics and all. Always remember one thing, more than the age it is the wear and tear of your body that determines its health. Look after your body well and nourish it with nutritious food, daily exercise and stress-reduced life to enable it to function smoothly for a longer period. If you don’t take care of your body and treat it roughly, you are sure to suffer from the resulting consequences. For directing your body in the right track get in touch with registered dietitian nutritionists at www.firsteatright.com.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.