If there’s one misconception that threatens to undermine the message I’ve worked my entire career to drive home, it’s that genes are the main culprits behind chronic disease and early death.
Because here’s the truth: Your genome isn’t a crystal ball. Your family history isn’t doomed to repeat itself—at least, not if you dedicate yourself to changing the story. And while it may not always be easy, beating the odds is most certainly simple.
Behavior outranks bad genes
Scientists recently presented new research at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2019. Their study featured more than 1,000 patients under the age of 5, just over half of whom had premature coronary artery disease (CAD)—with conditions including angina and heart attack.
Researchers compared their risk factors and genetics with healthy controls of the same age. They also looked at lifestyle factors—including sedentary behavior, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes status, and cholesterol.
Unsurprisingly, a good three quarters of the patients had at least three of these factors… compared with fewer than a third of the control group.
In both cases:
- One risk factor tripled the odds of heart disease
- Two risk factors raised the odds by seven-fold
- Three risk factors raised the odds by 24-fold
But genome sequencing revealed another notable trend—namely, that the contribution of genetics to CAD risk dropped as the number of lifestyle-based risk factors climbed.
In other words, yes, genetics play a role in premature heart disease—but it isn’t the starring role you might think. That honor goes to behaviors like smoking, inactivity, and poor diet. All of which can be changed.
Benefits beyond heart disease
This isn’t the first time that science has dispelled the myth of “bad genes.” Obviously, heredity plays a role in the development of disease—but like I’ve told you over and over, your fate is hardly sealed by family history.
One study showed, for example, that simply eating more vegetables was enough to normalize risk of heart disease and heart attack in patients with high-risk gene mutations. Meanwhile, patients from the same group who ate few veggies doubled their risk.
Scientists have uncovered similar trends in patients with so-called “fat genes”—showing that healthy eaters weren’t any more likely to put on weight over the course of 20 years, despite their genetic predisposition toward obesity.
Even dreaded BRCA gene mutations aren’t death sentences in a vacuum. Science clearly demonstrates that obesity significantly increases the DNA damage that leads to breast cancer, especially in BRCA carriers. (You can learn more about this in the upcoming issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives. So if you’re not yet a subscriber, now’s the perfect time to get started!)
The bottom line: When it comes to your health, no single outcome is carved in stone. You can’t control your genetic makeup—but you can control your lifestyle choices.
So choose wisely, and consistently, every single day.
“Lifestyle, not genetics, explains most premature heart disease.” Science Daily, 09/02/2019. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190902181602.htm)