Not Doomed by DNA

It makes us who and what we are. DNA is the hereditary material in our bodies that contains our unique genetic code. But a new study suggests that a healthy lifestyle could overcome genetic health problems.

From the New York Times:

Is genetics destiny when it comes to heart disease?

A new analysis of data from more than 55,000 people provides an answer. It finds that by living right — by not smoking, by exercising moderately and by eating a healthy diet heavy in fruits, vegetables and grains — people can tamp down even the worst genetic risk.

“DNA is not destiny; it is not deterministic for this disease,” said Dr. Sekar Kathiresan, the director of the Center for Human Genetic Research atMassachusetts General Hospital. “You do have control over the problem, even if you have been dealt a bad genetic hand.”

According to a National Public Radio (NPR) story, “People with unlucky genes, heart-wise, but good health habits were half as likely to develop coronary artery disease as those with unlucky genes and an unhealthful lifestyle, according to the study.”

In other words – genes, in and of themselves, do not necessarily predetermine health outcomes according to the new study. A healthy lifestyle can help to mitigate the risk. CBS News pointed out that meeting the ‘healthy lifestyle’ requirement was not that “rigorous.”

The Harvard Gazette quoted the study’s lead author (Dr. Sekar Kathiresan) as saying:

“Some people may feel they cannot escape a genetically determined risk for heart attack, but our findings indicate that following a healthy lifestyle can powerfully reduce genetic risk,” says Kathiresan.

“Now we need to investigate whether specific lifestyle factors have stronger impacts and conduct studies in more diverse populations, since most of the participants in these studies are white.”

Share your thoughts on this new study and how we can use it to drive better health in our state. Most people aspire to live healthier lives but we have to continue to find new and innovative ways to help Arizonans do that. If we can….we will take a huge step forward toward our goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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