Genes Vs. Lifestyle : What Matters Most For Health?

Does an illness like heart disease or cancer run in your family? Don’t assume that your genes control your destiny. Experts say the lifestyle choices you make every day can help keep you healthy.

There’s no doubt that some genes do lead inevitably to disease. “But for most people, a healthy lifestyle trumps inherited risk,” says cardiologist Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD. He is chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Even if a disease runs in your family, there’s a lot you can do to avoid it.”

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8 Common Surgery Complications[1]

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Here’s a look at how lifestyle changes can cut your risk of disease.


About 25% of colon cancers are in people with some family history of the disease. In the rest of people who get colon cancer, genetics doesn’t seem to play a role.

But lifestyle may be a factor. Studies show that most people can dramatically lower their colon cancer risk by taking these steps:

  • Eat very little red or processed meat.
  • Exercise.
  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all.

Other cancers are even more influenced by the choices we make. A good example is lung cancer.

  • 80% to 90% of lung cancers are caused by smoking.
  • Men who smoke are 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers.
  • Women who smoke are 13 times more likely to get lung cancer.

The longer you smoke and the more cigarettes you smoke, the greater your risk.

Still, genes do play some role. Some people who get lung cancer never smoked. Other people smoke and don’t get lung cancer. But the biggest risk factor by far is smoking.

Heart Disease

With heart disease, more than 100 types of genes may play a small role in a person’s risk, Lloyd-Jones says. “But by far the biggest factor is lifestyle.”

Lloyd-Jones and colleagues analyzed data from the Framingham Heart Study. The study followed three generations of families. The researchers found that:

  • Family history made up only 17% of a person’s heart disease risk.
  • Poor lifestyle choices, such as lack of exercise, made up a whopping 83% of the risk.

A heart-healthy lifestyle can lower your risk of heart disease.

For example, one type of gene strongly linked to heart disease is called 9p21. On average, it raises your risk of having a heart attack by about 20%.

But if people who carry this gene eat a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, research shows, they cut their risk back down to normal. People with that type of gene who eat a poor diet, on the other hand, have two times the normal risk of having a heart attack.


Type 2 diabetes is influenced by a combination of genes and lifestyle. Between 30% and 70% of the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is shaped by inherited genes.


  1. ^ 8 Common Surgery Complications (www.webmd.com)
  2. ^ Read the 8 Common Surgery Complications article > > (www.webmd.com)

Original Story Here


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  1. Reply

    How Can I Keep Up My Healthy Lifestyle Over Easter? I have been trying to keep a healthy lifestyle, build fitness and lose a little fat. But I am surrounded by Easter treats, mum has been baking loads, have Easter eggs from family and my bf wants to get me an Easter egg too. Don’t get me wrong, I love how sweet everyone is being, but all of this will just make me I’ll. What should I do?

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      • HealthNut
      • March 13, 2013

      If you’d like me to be honest, I think that the healthiest lifestyles include enjoying things. So every now and then, let go of the fact that “something will make me fat” and enjoy it. I think that often as people we give up a large part of living just to stay skinny. I used to be that way, and as much as I told myself it was worth it, it really wasn’t. Enjoy it, and don’t go on a guilt trip over it.

      That being said, there are several things you can do to avoid extra treats. Stay away from the kitchen as much as possible, as well as where things are being served. When you get things, get just a small bit. I’ve noticed that with a lot of sweetbreads and cakes and such, a very thin slice takes just as long to eat as a thick one and is usually just as satisfying. If not, you can even get a second (which, sliced thinly enough, is still smaller than the thick slices would be). Another trick I’ve learned is “sharing”–if it is a roll or whatever, just eat half of it and “share” the other half with someone else (maybe someone else who either just wants half, or someone who wants more than one).

      Enjoy Easter!

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    How Will You Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle In The Future? Imagine yourself after college. You’re married with a few kids. You’re gaining a few pounds every now and then. How will you get yourself back on track into a healthy lifestyle?

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      • HealthNut
      • March 13, 2013

      Minus the after college part, but I have 2 kids and am expecting the third one in a few weeks. We maintain healthy lifestyles by eating nutritious foods, lots of whole grains, fruits, veggies, and milk. We also get a lot of exercise in. Although my kids are still toddlers and I’m big as a house, everyday as a family my husband and I walk with the kids up and down the road, then when we get home my husband stays outside with the kids and plays with them while I get supper fixed. We don’t turn the TV on until after baths, forcing us to get up off the couch. Hopefully that will encourage our kids to maintain healthy lifestyles after they’re all grown up.

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