Mind, Body & Soul

 Health Watch: Outwitting Your Genetics

Written by E. Denise Billups




Do you ever wonder if your efforts to live healthy will prevent you from inheriting your family’s legacy of diabetes, heart disease, or cancer? You might be on the right path, but genes are fixed and can’t be changed. DNA forms all that you are and passes down to your children and their children, and so on, and so on. Your genotype (genetic makeup) determines not only eye, hair, and skin color but also your predisposition to diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and mental disorders. Unlike body parts we’re dissatisfied with; we can’t eradicate or mold bad genes with medicine or plastic surgery. But with all the technological advances, it’s a wonder we haven’t found a way to adjust our genetic blueprint.

Perhaps, as Michael Bay’s sci-fi movie The Island proposed, swapping diseased organs with diseased-free cloned tissue might be possible in the distant future. Until then, it’s not an option. However, the movie proved a healthy lifestyle free of environmental toxins can prevent disease. The fictional, cloned characters lived a basic, healthy life through proper diet, exercise, stress reduction, and a night out with smoothies instead of alcohol. An alcohol-free society might be too much to ask of generations preferring a glass of Merlot, or a bottle of beer with dinner. But adopting some of these practices may improve your chances of living disease-free.



Genetics versus Healthy Lifestyle

A family history of diabetes or cancer doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a life prescription medication. Genotypic predisposition to cancer, diabetes, etc., can remain dormant and never appear unless disturbed by environmental toxins, pollution, chemical additives, stress, obesity, lack of exercise, even too little sleep can trigger a sleeping monster.



Ethnicity and Genetics

All ethnic groups are genetically predisposed to some disease. African-Americans and Latinos have higher incidences of diabetes, hypertension, and cancer than Caucasians. Asians, before immigrating to America, had lower rates of heart disease and cancer. However, that’s changed since their adoption of western culture. Obesity, heart disease, and cancer have been on the rise in American-Asian communities, a phenomenon which proves lifestyle change can influence health. Research has shown that both genetics and the environment are health determinants, but for the most part, environmental factors play a greater role in cause and prevention. Everyone is susceptible to illness regardless of family history. In low-income communities, socioeconomic disparities make it impossible for many to live a healthy lifestyle. Without access to healthcare, healthy food choices, and the stresses of living, the rate of illness is higher in these communities.

Can You Outsmart Predisposition to Diseases?

Yes, but not entirely. With proper nutrition and healthy lifestyles, you can prevent or minimize your risk.  For some people, disease can’t be eliminated. In those instances, medication and lifestyle change is necessary to prevent the fatal development of symptoms.

Weight plays a considerable role in women predisposed to cancer. Research has shown that overweight and obese women are at greater risk of breast cancer, but a healthy lifestyle of exercise and proper nutrition reduces that risk. Knowing one’s family history is critical in catching diseases early. With preventive measures, many can live symptom-free or with minimal symptoms of the disease.

Live Healthy

Genetic disposition to disease is not a life sentence. It can be controlled with the right diet, specifically, vitamin B rich foods (fruits and vegetables), which have been shown to regulate and control DNA activity as well as Omega 3 Fatty Acids.

Try to limit intake of processed foods high in sugar, refined oils, and carbohydrates. Increase your intake of:

  • Leafy Greens: Kale, Spinach, Collard greens, Arugula, etc.
  • Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, Cabbage, Brussel Sprouts, Beets.
  • Berries: Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, etc.
  • Carotenoids: Pumpkin, Squash, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes.
  • Fresh herbs and spices: Turmeric, Ginger, Garlic, Thyme, Cayenne pepper, etc.)
  • Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, Flax seeds, Almonds, Sesame and Sunflower seeds, etc.
  • Unrefined oils: Coconut, Flax, and Olive oil.

These are just a few nutritious foods that can help you combat disease. Mix it up with various fruits and vegetables. With proper nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, sleep, and a supportive network of family and friends, one can keep the sleeping monster at bay.


For further reading see Top Twelve Cancer Fighting Foods



About the author

E. Denise Billups

An author with a rare mixture of Southern and Northern charm, E. Denise Billups was born in Monroeville Alabama and raised in New York City where she currently resides and works in finance. She has an MBA in Finance and she's a prospective Ph.D. candidate. A burgeoning author of fiction, she's published three suspense novels, Kalorama Road, Chasing Victory, By Chance, and two supernatural short stories, The Playground, and Rebound. An avid reader of mystery and suspense novels, she was greatly influenced by authors of that genre. When she's not writing or reading, you can generally find her training for road races and marathons. She's a fitness fanatic who loves physical challenges of all types (running, biking, yoga, dance, and more) a discipline she uses to facilitate the creative writing process.