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Dr Russ Blog - Nature, nurture and personal health
Nature, nurture and personal health
Created on 6/29/2009

Most people believe that their genes tell the story with respect to future health. We often speak of future illness with diabetes or heart disease with a sense of fatalism - "It runs in the family," and "I'm destined to get it."

It's understandable why we might think in this way. After all, we've been brought up with the idea that our genetic makeup determines our fate, and there's simply not much we can do about the cards we've been dealt. When we witness disease in our parents or siblings, we also become aware that we might be predisposed to the same health problem. Indeed, some illnesses do run in families.

Here's the kicker - research shows that diet and lifestyle are MUCH more important determinants of future health than our genes. In other words, family history of illness is important to pay attention to, but it doesn't have to predict the same illness will occur in ourselves. We actually have some control over our fate, at least with regards to our health.

Why might this be the case? Because there are many different factors that either turn genes off or on, and a healthy lifestyle generally appears to help activate protective genes and / or turn down or off potentially harmful ones.

Each of us possesses a unique genetic makeup with unique tendencies towards health or illness. Science tells us that eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, managing stress appropriately and getting enough sleep each night can overcome harmful genetic tendencies to some degree. We might be able to prevent an illness that has developed in some of our family members, or at least delay its onset until late in our lives, by taking good care of ourselves.

So, in looking to the future and considering your health, remember it's not all mapped out in your genes (nature) - the way you eat and care for your self (nurture) throughout your life plays the bigger role.

And you know what? There's no better time to start optimizing your lifestyle and dietary choices than right now.

Be well.
Dr. Russ

** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **

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