4 Reasons Why Genetics May Not Be as Important as You Think

Learning that your genes predispose you to a life-changing condition, such as cancer, diabetes, or heart disease, can leave you feeling like you’ve lost control of your health. Maybe, you even think that your genetics have destroyed your health.

However, the good news is, you have more control than you might think!

Even though you can’t change your genes, genes are just part of determining your risk for developing any genetic disease or condition. And, I’ll let you in on a secret, your genes are not the most significant determining factor!

Let’s review why your genetics may not be as important as you think and what other contributing factors can help determine your health and disease susceptibility.


Long structure of the DNA double helix in depth of view.

What is genetics?

Genetics is the study of genes and how specific traits and characteristics are passed down from generation to generation, including physical traits, such as eye color or height, and behavioral or physiological traits, such as the likelihood of developing a disease.

Genetics examines the structure and function of genes and the DNA replication, transcription, and translation processes that create proteins that carry out many functions in our cells. However, if there are changes in the DNA, there will be changes in the amino acid sequence in the proteins, which can then lead to alterations in the structure and functionality of the proteins.



Is health genetically determined?

Genetics can indeed play a role in determining an individual’s health, but it is just one factor among many. In fact, genes only account for about ten percent of human disease risk, and the other 90 percent is determined by environmental factors or a combination of the two.

For example, genetic conditions like sickle cell anemia or Huntington’s disease are caused by changes or mutations in a person’s DNA.  On the other hand, lifestyle choices such as diet, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol consumption can significantly impact a person’s health. And just to make it more complicated, many diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, have genetic and environmental components.

Additionally, advances in genetic research have made it possible to identify genetic risk factors for certain diseases and conditions. Helping you make more informed decisions about your health, take steps to reduce your risk, and live the fullest life you desire.

So, yes, genetics can influence your health, but it’s important to remember that many other factors can also have a significant impact.



What does it mean to have a genetic predisposition to a disease?

A genetic predisposition to a disease means you inherited specific genes from your parents, making you more susceptible to developing a particular disease or condition.

And because you now know that your genes only make up about ten percent of your disease risk, having a genetic predisposition does not mean that you will definitely develop the disease, but rather that you have an increased risk of developing it. However, knowing about a genetic predisposition for a disease or condition can help you and your care provider make more informed decisions about your health.


Woman doing yoga indoors

Epigenetics: Where genes and lifestyle intersect

Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression that occur without changes to the underlying DNA sequence, providing insight into how environmental factors can influence gene expression. And how these changes are ultimately passed down from one generation to the next.

However, epigenetic modifications turn genes on or off through a chemical change to the DNA molecule or to the proteins interacting with DNA. Examples of epigenetic modifications include DNA methylation, histone modification, non-coding RNA molecules, and DNA adducts which ultimately affect an individual’s traits or susceptibility to disease.

Furthermore, DNA adducts are a type of DNA modification where the chemical adheres to the DNA, which changes the structure and the function of the proteins produced WITHOUT actually changing our genetics!


Microbiologist doctor analyzing dna sample using medical microscope during clinical experiment in hospital laboratory.

4 Reasons Why Genetics May Not Be as Important as You Think

While genetics plays a vital role in determining your health and susceptibility to certain conditions, it’s essential to recognize that other factors also contribute significantly to your health. Here are four reasons why genetics may not be as important to your health as you think:

1. Lifestyle Choices

Lifestyle choices, such as nutrition, sleep, physical activity, stress management, and smoking, significantly impact your overall health. These factors can help prevent or manage many health conditions, regardless of genetic predisposition.

2. Environmental Factors

Environmental factors, such as water and air pollution, exposure to toxins, soil contamination, and healthcare access, can also significantly impact your overall health. These factors can have a more significant impact than genetics in some cases, especially if these become DNA adducts and change the structure and function of our proteins and enzymes.

3. Gene Expression

When genes are influenced by external factors, such as lifestyle choices and environmental factors, how the gene is expressed can also be affected, potentially reducing the impact of a genetic predisposition.

4. Medical Advances

Medical advancements have made it possible to manage and treat many health conditions, regardless of your genetic predisposition. For example, disease prevention medications and therapies are available to manage genetic conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes primarily based on family history and laboratory testing.

While genetics are important in determining an individual’s health, they are not the only factor. Lifestyle choices, environmental factors, gene expression, and medical advances can all significantly affect overall health and well-being.



5 Examples of How Lifestyle Factors Can Impact Your Disease Risk

Lifestyle factors can significantly impact your risk of developing various diseases. Here are 5 examples:

Nutrition. When our body lacks essential vitamins and minerals from a nutrient-poor diet, our immune function can be impacted, leaving us more vulnerable to inflammation and oxidative stress. However, a poor diet can also impact our chances of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. On the other hand, fasting has been shown to stimulate autophagy, the natural process of cellular recycling and renewal in the body that removes damaged or dysfunctional cellular components.

Sleep. Sleep is an essential factor in optimizing our lifestyle and improving our health. When we sleep, our body performs its nightly clean-up, helping to heal and repair tissues.

Stress. Chronic stress can increase the risk of various health problems, including heart disease, depression, Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune diseases.    Stress can also alter our genetic predisposition to disease, encouraging disease-related variants to “turn on” and express themselves.

Physical Activity. Lack of physical activity directly impacts our metabolic health, including well-researched precursors to numerous chronic diseases. In fact, one study demonstrated that those who spent more than 23 hours per week sitting versus those who spent 11 hours or less had a 64 percent greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

Smoking. Smoking can increase the risk of many diseases, including lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Quitting smoking can significantly reduce the risk of developing these diseases.

While these examples only represent a few lifestyle factors, they demonstrate how much of your overall health and well-being is within your control.


Person with emotional trauma

Real-Life Examples of Epigenetics

It has long been believed that epigenetic changes in your life do not cross into future generations. However, growing research shows how epigenetics can change our health across multiple generations. One example published in 2019 by Science, an online publisher, highlighted research demonstrating that children of adults who have experienced emotional trauma may have lower baseline levels of cortisol and have an increased risk of mental health conditions as adults.

Another well-known research is the Dutch hunger winter written about in Time in 2010. The article highlights research about a famine gripping the Netherlands during World War II’s end. This research identified that the children of women pregnant during the food shortages died earlier than peers born just before. And they had higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and schizophrenia.

While these are only two examples from an ever-expanding field of research, they both demonstrate how the study of epigenetics has the potential to explain various biological phenomena that we’ve never previously been able to explain. It’s exciting stuff!



Take Control of Your Health, Even With Your Genetics

The exciting news is that YOU have control of your health!

Your genes are just one part of your health but not your destiny.

Begin applying the health-promoting behaviors we’ve reviewed along with my supplement “starter kit” to kickstart your journey to vibrant wellness. Furthermore, to take your journey to the next level, book a nutritional consultation with our expert functional nutritionist.



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