Tag Archives: healthy lifestyle

“Your Genes Are Not Your Destiny”

20 Jun

So says Dr. Dean Ornish, founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and author of a ridiculous number of not-at-all ridiculous diet and nutrition books. If you’re worried that all of the ailments that plagued your parents will be your fate as well, there’s some good news: we can alter our genes by adopting a healthy lifestyle. In as little as three months, people can deactivate genes that cause a host of diseases, like cancer, inflammation, and heart disease, and activate protective ones. Kinda makes you wonder why we don’t all throw away our doughnuts already, doesn’t it?

In the study, Ornish and his colleagues put 30 men with prostate cancer on a stringent health regimen that consisted of:

  • A plant-based diet (fruits, veggies, soy, whole grains), supplemented with soy, fish oil (three grams/day), vitamin E (100 units/day), selenium (200 mg/day), and vitamin C (2 grams/day)
  • Moderate exercise (walking 30 minutes per day)
  • Stress management techniques (yoga-based stretching, breathing techniques, meditation, and guided imagery for one hour per day)
  • Weekly one-hour support group

Why can’t I be the subject of a healthy lifestyle study? Please, somebody force me to do all the things I know are good for me but can’t for the life of me seem to stick with. At least I’m getting 30 minutes of walking in each day, just from living in New York. And, like most New Yorkers, I’m in therapy, so that would probably count as my support group. I take 1 gram of fish oil, and try to eat one salad a day. But the rest I most definitely need to work on.

Last week’s New York magazine detailed the story of a man, Kevin Baker, whose mother came down with Huntington’s Disease, which pretty much devours the brain whole. Since it’s so rare, pharmaceutical companies don’t see any reason to put money behind something that won’t bring them serious profit. Cancer makes money. Huntington’s does not. Anyway, the author found out that he had a 50/50 chance of coming down with the disease, so he decided to get tested, even though there was nothing he could do about it. He figured, I’m so paranoid about it now, I might as well get the test so that I might have some peace of mind. Turns out, he’s got it. It’s just a matter of time before symptoms start to show and the disease ravages his brain.

I can’t help but wonder what kind of effect lifestyle changes might have on diseases like this. Is there any hope for him? What if we could avoid all diseases just by exercising, eating healthfully, and avoiding stress and toxins? It’s like rubbing a genie lamp and asking it to eradicate all diseases, and being told we already have that power. Crazy.

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