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Are You Changing Your Genes?

We used to think that both your genes and your environment get together to determine your health. While this is true, we now know that your environment has a big impact on your genes and the genes that you pass to your kids. You can actually modify your genes, for better or for worse, depending on your lifestyle choices.

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Living healthy not only affects you, it affects your potential offspring&and yes, fellas, this applies to us too. But isnt this something we already knew? It is true that we inherit our genes from our ancestors (parents, grandparents, and so on) and our genes impact how you develop and influence your vulnerability to disease&.but there is more to the story.

A recent episode of NOVA titled, Ghost in Your Genes, gave a fantastic overview of some research investigating the influence that our epigenome has on our lives, and in turn, the influence that our lives have on our epigenome.

You have more control of your genes than you think.

Your genome is the total set of genes that you inherited from your parents and your epigenome (literally translating as on top of or in addition to the genome) is partially inherited and partially created by your experiences. Your epigenome is a collection of physical modifications of your genes.

How is epigenetic control different from genetic control over our lives? Well, both the genome and the epigenome control how genes turn on or off to influence the health of our brains and bodies. One of the main differences is that your epigenome changes throughout life, while your genome is relatively unchanging from the time your were conceived.

This means that the genetic factor is more influential early in life, assuming that everyone has reasonably nurturing parents. But once we get past the early stages of development we gain some control over our genetic destiny.

Think about it kind of like driving a car. Early on, you are safe if your parents are good drivers, but once you get your own license your safety is in your own hands.

One of the most striking examples of epigenetics comes from studies in identical twins. Even though identical twins come from the same egg and start with the same genes and initial epigenome, their experiences throughout life alter their epigenetic makeup. This ultimately affects how their genes turn on and off and how this controls their health and longevity.

When are you absolved of your responsibility?

Now, keep in mind that these epigenetic changes are inheritable&..meaning you can pass the changes that you make to your offspring. So, how many generations can these effects last for, you ask? So far, researchers have data suggesting that epigenetic alterations can have effects on several generations down the line.

Since the epigenome can also be influenced by lifestyle choices (i.e. diet, smoking, exercise) and environmental factors (i.e. pollution) the choices we make today can influence several generations to come.

So aside from the birthday cards, hand-knit sweaters, and rolls of pennies, your grandparents may have also given you epigenetic predispositions for increased or decreased odds of getting diabetes and several other diseases. What kind of grandparent do you want to be?

The silver lining in all of this is that even though we start with a set of genes and an epigenetic fingerprint, we have the ability to influence our epigenome by the lifestyle choices that we make. And, since the epigenome can turn genes on or off, we ultimately have some control over our genes. So even if you dont care about your healthComputer Technology Articles, think about how you might be influencing the health of your grandchildren.

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