We talk a lot about genetics in our society. Our physical features, skills, habits, addictions, health tendencies, and much more can all be traced back to the DNA we got from mom and dad.
But it turns out there’s a lot more to genetics than just our genes.
We are also affected by epigenetics (“epi” is the Greek word for “over the top of”).
Epigenetics is the study of how our behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way our genes express themselves. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes are reversible and do not change your DNA sequence. Instead they change how your body reads a DNA sequence.
Epigenetic changes affect gene expression to turn genes “on” and “off.”
Since our environment and behaviors, such as diet and exercise, can result in epigenetic changes, it is easy to see the connection between our genes and our behaviors and environment.
As the Australian Academy of Science puts it, “Just as the same piece of music will change slightly when interpreted by different orchestras, your genetic ‘score’ is interpreted by the epigenetic orchestra.”
What does this mean for you?
Factors like our diet, environment, lifestyle (smoking, drinking, etc.), stress, etc., can affect DNA patterns. For example, you may have the genetic tendency toward eye disease, but you eat a diet rich in vitamin A and never manifest that tendency. Or you have the genetic predisposition toward heart disease, but you exercise consistency in the most optimal way for your unique body and avoid a heart attack.
None of us is bound by a “DNA-Destiny.” We have far more control over our genes than we realize.
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