Our insights into genetics have increased exponentially over the last decade, and some of the new research has led to breakthroughs in how we diagnose and treat disease. These developments have meant a better qualify of life for thousands of patients, but there has been an unintended side effect of genetics in the media:
Many of us believe that our genetics are our destiny.
In other words, if you learn that you have a predisposition for heart disease, for example, you might feel as if you are powerless to change it. After all, the coverage around genetics is always about how they are powerful predictors of our future health, right? The real conclusion is not so simple. Though genetic research is an exciting field of research, your choices are often the most important variable in your health.
In other words, lifestyle typically trumps genetics.
In a recent study involving over 300,000 participants in the U.K., researchers compared the impact of lifestyle between individuals who had a genetic predisposition to stroke versus those who did not. The participants who practiced a healthy lifestyle were 66 percent less susceptible to stroke, and that difference applied to everyone regardless of their genetics.
To put that into perspective, a high genetic predisposition meant an increased stroke risk of 35 percent.
Look at the difference in those numbers. That’s a big gap! You have the large majority of the control over your wellbeing, and in many studies, the difference in these numbers is even more dramatic. Your lifestyle—the habits you choose to practice each day—are often more powerful predictors of your longevity than your genetics.
To me, this is exciting. We are the masters of our destiny. We have the power to write our own stories.