The development of highly accurate and widely available genome sequencing technology has put us at a crossroads. Now, more than ever, the divergent views of nature versus nurture confront consumers wishing to be advocates for their own health. As we learn about our genetics it seems quite clear that the deterministic message about our health destiny is ringing loud and clear. More and more, the idea that we are at the mercy of our inheritance seems supported by the advancing understanding and interpretation of our individual genetic profiles.
An important message we have been espousing over the past decade centers on the importance of lifestyle choices, specifically directed to offset disease risk that may well be enhanced by genetics. This ideology centers on the notion of genetic predisposition in contrast to genetic determinism. It is this contrast that opens the door to empowerment and your health destiny.
One of the most important goals of my life is to raise the level of awareness of the importance of lifestyle choices in determining a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease, a disease for which there is no meaningful medical treatment. To be sure, this narrative isn’t something that mainstream medicine fully embraces. But this isn’t necessarily a surprise as the whole notion of disease prevention still remains on the back burner as far as the world of Western medicine is concerned.
But the publications showing the powerful influence of specific lifestyle choices on Alzheimer’s risk are appearing with ever-increasing frequency in the world’s most well respected scientific publications. To that point, The Journal of the American Medical Association just published a powerful report looking at the relationship between genetic predisposition for dementia and the influence of lifestyle choices. This study begins by indicating that there are genetic risks for dementia. It then describes the focus of the research being dedicated to determining how much of the genetic risk may be offset by making specific choices in terms of things like smoking, diet, physical activity and alcohol consumption. Continue reading
Over the past several years, we’ve seen the rates of type 2 diabetes in the United States absolutely skyrocket. At this stage, there’s no doubt about it: lifestyle choices are playing a key role in causing this problem.
As far as I’m concerned, this is a threat to our collective health not only because of the harmful role diabetes can play in the body, but because of the myriad ailments that tend to be correlated with diabetes and its impacts elsewhere in the body, from the kidneys to the brain. For instance, did you know that type 2 diabetics may have as much as a 4x increase in risk for becoming a patient with Alzheimer’s?
All of this in mind, let’s look at what lifestyle choices can do to improve the healthspan of type 2 diabetics.
As the lifespan of the average person grows ever longer, we grapple with an important problem: how do we extend our healthspan, the period during which we can maintain an active and full lifestyle, to mirror our lifespan? An interesting study in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society looked at the role lifestyle choices can play in doing just that.
According to the World Health Organization, the biggest threats to our health, globally, are now chronic degenerative conditions, not infectious diseases. What a transition! As opposed to various epidemics of diseases that were so common in our history, what is now threatening health, across the planet, is chronic degenerative inflammatory conditions – diseases that we most fear. These include things like Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and autoimmune conditions as well.
So it makes sense that we must do everything we possibly can, from a lifestyle choice perspective, to keep ourselves healthy and lower our risk for these chronic degenerative conditions.
No doubt lifestyle issues like diet and exercise have received a lot of press, but what we don’t hear about so often is the importance of social interaction. Continue reading
What my work, in Brain Maker and Grain Brain, boils down to, is giving you a lifestyle plan that you can follow to cause optimal health. Why do these factors matter? Why are these the choices you should make? Simple: because this is the best way to fight and reduce inflammation, the cornerstone player in diseases like Parkinson’s, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer.
My concerns about lifestyle choices affecting genetic destiny began when I was a teenager. I wrote the below in The Miami News when I was 16.
It’s still early into 2014, but it’s never too early to make smart choices for your health. Last week, I laid out some steps you could take to start 2014 right and ensure a smooth transition into a lifestyle of eating for brain health. I’m curious to know: how has the transition been for everyone? What did you set as your specific goal, and how have you worked to achieve it?
Remember, this website is about more than just the information I share, and you should use the comments section here to share your concerns and seek advice from others. We’re all working together to build healthier bodies and brains!