Genes. A word that can be used to define our genetic makeup or a convenient excuse? They can give us a predisposition for heart disease, cancer, or a shorter or longer life. I often hear from my clients; “I would love to do your weight loss program, but it is a waste of time. These are the genes that G-d gave me there is nothing I can do about it.” We have all used or heard the standard reasons for not exercising and eating right—“It takes too much time”, “I can’t afford they gym or healthy food”, “I’m too tired and busy”, lately, I have been hearing more of the “I inherited this” excuse than I used to. Yes, there is definitely some predisposition for having more fat cells or less fat cells in your body, having high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, but so what! The question is, can we do anything to counter the family inheritance and if so, what?
Environment and genes
First of all, most of what we call “genetic” isn’t really that. As we grow up, we develop various behaviors, both good and bad, based on what we see and imitate around us. If we grow up and are raised in an environment where overeating and a lazy lifestyle are prevalent, we internalize that and imitate it, without genes playing a particular role. New studies suggest that exercise and a healthful diet can override the harmful effects of some “bad genes” and boost the beneficial effects of others in all areas of health.
Exercise can also amplify the effects of “good genes.” For example, people with one variant of a gene that controls cholesterol metabolism, typically have elevated levels of good HDL cholesterol. When those with this lucky gene variation exercise, as researchers at the Steno Diabetes Center in Gentofte, Denmark, reported recently, they get an even bigger boost in HDL levels.
Role of diet and genes
We know that eating a very healthy diet appears to make heart disease less likely. This is also true of people whose genes put them at a higher than normal risk of heart trouble. A diet high in fruits and vegetables appears to mitigate the genetic risk of a heart attack,” says a professor of medicine and epidemiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. This finding could affect many people at risk for heart disease because of a genetic variant that researchers have only recently linked with heart attack.
Researched showed that the risk of heart attack for those with “bad genes” who ate the least prudent diet was increased about 30%. The risk of heart attack of those with a bad genotype and high prudent diet was not increased. This suggests that diet can weaken the effect of the genetic variation, researchers say.
Study findings suggest that lifestyle does matter, no matter what your genes have dealt you. This suggests you may be able to do something about bad genes if you follow a prudent diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables. The worse the diet, the higher the risk of heart attack. The better the diet, the lower the risk.
In spite of a less than favorable predisposition, eating properly and exercising have been shown to “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”