July 4th: Freedom from Your Genes
As Independence Day approaches, freedom is often at the forefront of our minds. We as humans and as Americans love our freedom. We are blessed to have as many freedoms as we do and often take them for granted. There is, however, one area of our lives that most people feel they have no control over and therefore no freedom: our genetic composition.
Tell me if you’ve heard this before, “I have high blood pressure because it runs in my family,” or “I’m overweight because my genes determined that I would be”. It deeply saddens me to see people so willingly give up on getting healthy because they have believed that they have no control over it.
My wife and I were recently at DCH for their Wellness Summit and we had to privilege of hearing Tuscaloosa’s own Cardiology Consultants present on cardiac health topics. I was both encouraged and disappointed to hear him say that he often hears people blame their genetics in his office as well. He would take this as an important teaching moment to let his patient know that often times we pick up our parent’s bad habits that affect us more than their bad genes.
When someone tells him, they have a bad heart because it runs in their family he would often respond that he believes everyone in their family has a bad heart because no one in the family runs. This of course made all of us laugh, but that is the truth.
The sad reality is that most people actually like being able to blame their genes. When I tell practice members in our office they have more control over their health than they’ve been lead to believe it puts the ball back in their court. They are then forced to make changes and take control of their health. It’s much easier to just blame our genetics and not make any changes because we think there is no point.
There is an entire field known as epigenetics, which studies all of the different things that determine which of our genes gets “turned on and turned off.” Basically, most of us are born with a predisposition to certain diseases and disorders but our lifestyle choices determine whether those genes get expressed or not.
So, if you believe you have been dealt a bad hand of genes then it is that much MORE crucial for you to make the necessary lifestyle changes that encourage expression of the good genes you do have. Make this Independence Day a launching pad for breaking free of your genes.