It’s Official: Lifestyle Trumps Genetics
While it’s true that genetics play a role in health and longevity (think: the length of your DNA telomeres), there are other factors that may have an even greater influence.
In a breakthrough genetic study, a team of scientists was able to separate the impact of genes and lifestyle on overall life expectancy.
Using data from 25 separate studies, the scientists analyzed genetic and health data from more than 600,000 people. This allowed the team to calculate the impact of various genes on lifespan.
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As expected, they discovered that some genes have a positive influence on how long a person lives. However, a genetic predisposition to common diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, has a negative influence.
The study also identified two new DNA differences that affect lifespan. The first, in a gene that affects size and number of cholesterol lipoproteins, reduces lifespan by around eight months. The second, in a gene linked to the immune system, can increase your life expectancy by about half a year.
But if you think you’ve been dealt a bad hand when it comes to the gene pool, don’t despair! In addition to genetics, the team also found that ridding yourself of certain unhealthy lifestyle factors, and establishing healthful lifestyle practices can extend your life.
The Key to a Longer Life Expectancy
The findings of the study suggest that giving up smoking, weight loss, educational attainment and openness to new experiences can help people live longer. As a matter of fact, the scientists learned that every year of education after standard schooling can add almost a year of life.
On the other hand, being overweight can cut life expectancy by about a month for every extra 2.20 pounds of extra weight. When the team translated this to body mass index, they found that a reduction in one BMI unit could extend your life by about four months.
Additionally, the analysis found that smoking a pack of cigarettes each day throughout your lifetime can knock an average of seven years off life expectancy. But, remarkably, smokers who give up can eventually expect to live as long as somebody who has never smoked.
Study author Dr Peter Joshi said, “Our study has estimated the causal effect of lifestyle choices. We found that, on average, smoking a pack a day reduces lifespan by seven years, whilst losing one kilogram of weight will increase your lifespan by two months.”
Learning and staying in shape key to longer lifespan, study finds. News Release. University of Edinburgh. Oct 2017.
The genetic basis of human lifespan. News Release. University of Edinburgh. Oct 2017.
Joshi PK, et al. Genome-wide meta-analysis associates HLA-DQA1/DRB1 and LPA and lifestyle factors with human longevity. Nature Communications. 2017 Oct 13;8(1):910
Dana Nicholas is a freelance writer and researcher in the field of natural and alternative healing. She has over 20 years of experience working with many noted health authors and anti-aging professionals, including James Balch, M.D., Dr. Linda Page, “Amazon” John Easterling and Al Sears M.D. Dana’s goal is to keep you up-to-date on information, news and breakthroughs that can have a direct impact on your health, your quality of life… and your lifespan. “I’m absolutely convinced that America’s misguided trust in mainstream medicine – including reliance on the government to regulate our food and medicine supply – is killing us, slowly but surely,” she cautions. “By sharing what I’ve learned throughout the years I hope I can empower others to take control over their own health.”