Most of us believe that age related diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, adult onset diabetes, stroke, cancer, etc are the inevitable consequences of aging, but we are now finding out that this is not necessarily true. We actually have a lot more control over how we age than you might think. Healthy aging is mainly the result of how we “communicate” with our genes – through our diet, our lifestyle and the environment we bathe them in. Healthy habits nurture healthy genes.
When most of us think of genes, we think of the ones that determine particular characteristics such as whether we have brown hair, blue eyes or long legs, or those that predict specific childhood diseases. These genes are “fixed,” but are only few in number. By far the vast majority are the thousands of genes that direct all of our biochemical processes and that render us susceptible to the many chronic diseases so many people are experiencing today. While we are each born with a set of genes – a baseline set of conditions which we can’t change – we can change how they are expressed.
This means that most genes in and of themselves do not create disease. Rather, the likelihood of developing disease and disability is determined by the way we live our lives and by the choices we make. You may have the genes for and be susceptible to heart disease or diabetes or arthritis, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will get those diseases. In other words, these genes do not cause disease per se unless they are thrust into a detrimental environment, one conducive to expressing these genes as chronic disease.
There are multiple factors in your diet, environment and lifestyle that affect your genes and how you age. Many of these are within your control. Of all the factors, diet is the easiest to control and probably the most important determinant of how our genes are expressed.
Next: How our food communicates with our genes